Not only did the junior Rio Hondo League champion and fourth-place finisher in the Eastern Division press on, he nearly advanced to the CIF State Meet. Needing a top-nine finish at Masters to move on to state, which take place Friday and Saturday at the Rabobank Arena in Bakersfield, Padilla came up one match shy of the ninth-place bout Saturday at Temecula Valley High.
Padilla opened the tournament Friday with a pinfall victory over Chaparral's Matt McCullough in 2:25. It put Padilla in the cross hairs of top-seeded Alejandro Ruelas of Westminster. The task was made tougher because, according to Williams, his standout strained an Achilles' ligament and sprained his right ankle versus McCullough.
“On his first match, the kid did a trip and that led to his injury,” Williams said. “He’s a tough kid and he was out there hobbling.”
An injured Padilla was no match for Ruelas, who pinned him in 44 seconds.
Yet, rather than bow out due to injury, Padilla continued to wrestle and fought his way to falls over Foothill sophomore Mario Galvez (2:32) and Righetti senior Dante Gamble (2:24) in the consolation bracket.
“When he finished both matches, he was walking off on one leg. It was kind of sad for the guys who he beat,” Williams said. “He looks in pain afterward, but when he’s wrestling, he looks fine.”
Needing a win in his first match Saturday against Paramount senior Chris Borrayo to clinch a top-nine finish in his weight class, the junior was pinned 2:54 into the bout and limped off the mat. It forced Padilla to win his next two matches to secure the final State spot.
“I think had he had both feet it would have looked different,” Williams said. “There isn’t a trainer or coach on this campus that saw what happened to [Padilla] and thought he'd still be wrestling today.”
Padilla came up just short, falling to Paloma Valley senior Chris Kocay, 3-1, with the winner advancing to the ninth-place bout.
The past two years have been filled with progress for Padilla. Seemingly out of nowhere, he placed sixth, one spot away from advancing to Masters, in his first appearance at the Eastern Divisional championships last year. He greatly improved on that this year, not only advancing to Masters but coming two matches short of a state berth.
Should Padilla continue his rise, who knows what next year holds?
“He's still just a junior, so everything he does right now is gravy,” Williams said. “I am just glad his injury is getting better. It could have been one of those things where it just got worst.”