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A few things were gnawing at Lucas Gramlick on Monday, two days after the American Canyon High 285-pound wrestler placed fourth at the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Masters Meet and qualified for his first-ever state meet.

He’ll be using his dissatisfaction as motivation at the CIF State Championships taking place Friday and Saturday at Rabobank Arena in Bakersfield.

The senior – ranked 18th in the state and sixth in the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section by thecaliforniawrestler.com going in – had locked up one of the six qualifying spots at his weight by pinning all three opponents he faced last Friday, including two ranked above him.

After dispatching Tracy High junior Angel Romo in 65 seconds, it took Gramlick just 80 seconds to take care of East Union-Manteca senior Jaysen Reindel, ranked ninth in the state. Gramlick needed the second period to pin Turlock junior Michael Jeffus, ranked 14th in the state, but did it with 17 seconds left.

That put him in the semifinals against Vacaville senior Jake Levengood, who had also pinned his first three foes. Ranked No. 2 in the state and having placed at the previous two state meets, Levengood pinned Gramlick in 1:31.

Gramlick came back with a 35-second pin of Foothill senior Igor Banar to reach the third-place match, where Jeffus defeated Gramlick 6-2 to avenge his earlier loss.

“I was feeling really confident going against the Turlock guy again, but I knew he was really good and he had a little bit of revenge motive,” Gramlick said of Jeffus.

Gramlick said the match became “controversial” after the wrestlers battled through a scoreless first period.

“He started the second period on the bottom and stood up and I crotch-lifted him and kinda slammed him down on his shoulder and onto his back,” Gramlick recalled. “I thought I’d get a near-fall and was going to win the match. But he was yelling and the ref blew it dead. (Jeffus) complained that his shoulder was hurt, and I didn’t get any points. One of the rules is if you get injured while getting pinned, it’s an automatic near-fall, but I didn’t get that.”

Jeffus scored an escape for a 1-0 lead, then went up 2-0 when Gramlick was penalized a point.

“I got him in a move that I did the day before, a headlock where he tried to step in front of me and trip me and instead I tripped him and took him to his back. The day before, I got the two points for it. This time the only thing different was the ref, and he called it an illegal (move). I had other coaches tell me after the match that it wasn’t illegal.

“It was highly disappointing to me and was kind of the reason I eventually lost the match. If you’re down 2-0 at that level, it’s hard to make it up. If I had lost the match fair and square I would have (accepted it), but I felt in my mind that I had done everything right that I had to do to win the match.”

Gramlick also didn’t understand why he was placed on the same side of the bracket as Levengood. The Del Campo wrestler he had beaten at the Division I-A meet the week before ended up wrestling Levengood in the final and placing second.

“My coaches had us write down three goals our season,” Gramlick said. “My first one was to be a Doc B semifinalist, but I lost to (No. 1-ranked) Seth Nevills in the quarterfinals. My second was to be a Masters finalist, and I’m convinced if I was on the bottom of the bracket I would have achieved that. My third goal is to be a state placer, so that’s the only goal I can get now.”

Pinning Reindel so quickly, a guy ranked nine spots higher than him, with a “lateral drop” move was one of the highlights of the Masters Meet for Gramlick.

“I learned that move at the end of my sophomore year and worked on it a lot my junior year,” he said. “I set it up when we were on the edge of the mat, so if I threw it and didn’t get it, I could get out of bounds and not get any points on me. I got him to push really hard and threw him to his back. The new rule that they adopted from college wrestling is that you can pin them out of bounds as long as your knees or torso are inbounds. Being a longer guy, my knees can stay in bounds. He did exactly what I wanted him to do, so I think I did surprise him with it.”

Gramlick can talk the talk, now that he’s walked the walk. He placed seventh at the Don Buchanan Invitational, one of the toughest tournaments in the country, in Clovis in early January. He had gone in unseeded, not expected to finish in the top 16 after going 0-2 there the last two years, and that finish gave him the confidence he could finally get to the state meet.

“I got over my nerves because I had nothing to lose. I went there to just have fun and I ended up doing really well,” he said. “It was after that tournament I realized I could compete at a really high state level and really challenge myself,” he said. “A lot of wrestlers get in their own heads, looking at the brackets, when you should just go out and compete in every match to the best of your ability and enjoy it. That’s what I learned at Doc B this year. Just compete and you never know what’s going to happen.”

The 6-foot-7 Gramlick recently committed to play football for UC Davis as a preferred walk-on, so being able to stick with the blue-collar grind of wrestling – a sport he’ll probably never do again – and have the focus to finally reach Rabobank Arena forced him to dig deep.

After all, how many other wrestlers at the state meet will be playing NCAA Division I football in the fall?

“To be honest, it can be hard to stay motivated,” he said. “Same thing with school. I got into UC Davis, so now I’m going around school thinking ‘Man I can’t wait for this to be over.’

“But one of the things that motivates me to keep wrestling is it’s not just me. It’s the team I wrestle for, too, so I don’t want to just not give it my all and set a bad example. A lot of people set high expectations for me and I really don’t want to let anybody down, so I just want to keep trying my best every day and make everybody proud, I guess.”

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Sports Reporter

Andy Wilcox is a sportswriter-photographer for the Napa Valley Register. He's had similar roles in Walnut Creek, Grass Valley, Auburn, Tracy and Patterson. He grew up in Ohio. His wife, Laura, is a pastry chef. He also enjoys playing guitar and piano.