montage of wrestling coach
Assistant Coach Joe Espejo knows what it's like to be the underdog on the CCCAA's biggest stage, and he's in another underdog's corner tonight when 133 pounder Pedro Corona wrestles the match of his career so far against Fresno City's Isaiah Perez.

The Bakersfield College Wrestling Team has three coaches who have been amongst the 10 or so wrestlers who get to finish the season atop a podium; Head Coach Bret Clark and Assistant Coaches Joe Espejo and Ryan Meloche have all captured at least one state championship in a Bakersfield College singlet.

However, Espejo alone knows what it's like to be in Pedro Corona's shoes. He's been raising Bakersfield College Wrestling hardware for a long time. In 2004, Coach Espejo earned a berth into the CCCAA State Championships with a 3rd place finish at SoCal Regionals. The season before, he finished 6th and didn't place at State in part because of a nagging ankle injury. 

But something else nagged him in 2004. Moorpark Heavyweight Tyrell Blanche. The future coach of top-flight programs like Buchanan High School in Fresno beat Espejo soundly three times, and onlookers could be forgiven for expecting Blanche to continue that run on the penultimate stage of the season. 

Despite all evidence indicating otherwise, Espejo and Blanche met in the finals, and Espejo took him down seemingly at will and beat his foe for this first time ever by a convincing and dominant score of 9-3 to win the 2004 Heavyweight State Championship. 

Tonight, Corona will face his nemesis in a man he has never beaten...Isaiah Perez. He's come closer than most in that he's taken a tie into the third period before getting caught in a bad position and losing by pinfall. Most don't make it very deep into the second period before the the three-time CIF champion sticks them and ends the match with his arm being raised. 

The history of losses this season and Perez's imposing wrestling resume nonwithstanding,  both Corona and his coaches believe he has a chance to upset the top-ranked 133 pounder in the state for the 2017 Championship. 

"His mind space is right. He's excited and the heart is there, and that's something we can't teach. He's excited to wrestle and be in the finals, and that comibination is going to make for an exciting match," Co-Head Coach Marcos Austin said. 

As for Coach Espejo, he's saved his voice and comments for Corona alone. But you can bet that BC's 133 pounder doesn't have a better example than one of the men standing in his corner when it comes to believing that past history doesn't matter and that anything can happen in the finals of the State Championship.