Ceres High's John Alba and Central Valley's David Lezama relished being underdogs heading into the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters Wrestling Championships.
Lezama, honorable mention in CalGrapplers' Feb. 20 rankings for heavyweights, finished fourth at Masters this past weekend at Stockton Arena.
Alba, CalGrapplers' 10th-ranked 145-pound grappler, placed fifth.
Lezama and Alba both secured berths to the CIF State Meet, to be staged this Friday and Saturday, at Bakersfield's Rabobank Arena.
"David's been underestimated all season," Hawks head coach Rob Beckhart said. "We used that as motivation."
"I overcame the odds and became a state-qualifier for the second time," Alba said. "I had an urgency to prove people wrong. It made me more aggressive on the mat."
"Rankings are just a number," Lezama said. "I knew I could get to state. But I knew it wasn't going to be easy. It's something I've worked hard for."
Lezama and Alba compiled identical 4-2 records at Masters.
David and John were assured state berths after winning their first three matches on Friday.
Alba and Lezama collected upset victories in the quarterfinals against Central Catholic's Cristian Dominguez (decision, 5-4) and River Valley's Jack Farley (decision, 4-1).
"To be honest, I was scared," Lezama said. "I give credit to coach for getting the pressure off my back. I just did what he told me to do. I went out there and gave it my all. I love the feeling of winning. It makes you feel good inside."
"There has been a lot of pressure," Alba said. "It hasn't got to me. I try not to let negativity get into my head. Once I do that I underperform. I'm really confident in my ability to wrestle. I'm more aggressive on the mat because I believe in myself more."
Alba (41-8) went 0-2 at state last season.
"My goal this year is to improve," Alba said. "I need to be more aggressive on the mat and push myself a little harder. I want to become one of the select few from Ceres to be able to say I placed at state. I'm leaving behind a legacy all upcoming (Bulldog) wrestlers can strive for."
Lezama (34-12) joined a short list by becoming just the third male wrestler from Central Valley to qualify for state.
Luis Saucedo and Adrian Vizcaino advanced in 2016 and 2014, respectively.
"It's a great honor to represent Central Valley at state," Lezama said. "Hopefully, I can win one match and maybe even place. I still feel like I can do more."
"I'm excited for him," Beckhart said. "He works hard. He never complains. He's a tough kid. We've had good heavyweights in the past. David has set himself apart in terms of his accomplishments."