Article Last Updated:
Sunday, March 03, 2002 - 7:17:39 AM MST

Mack's Kirby places third at meet

The Times-Standard

STOCKTON -- McKinleyville's Darren Kirby made a little bit of history Saturday, although it may lead to heightened expectations when he's a senior next year.

Kirby, one of two Humboldt-Del Norte League wrestlers who made it to day two of the CIF State meet Saturday, placed third in the 152-pound division, becoming the first H-DNL wrestler to place in the top three at the state since Arcata heavyweight Rich England placed second back in 1987.

"It feels great," Kirby said, before adding jokingly, "and I'm sure my coach will expect a lot more from me next year after this."

But the Mack junior added that the experience of competing at the state meet will definitely stand to him as a senior.

"Every match here is a six-minute match. There's really no pins and every match is won by two or three points," he added. "(The state meet) prepares you a lot more. It makes you mentally stronger."

Kirby's finish is also the highest ever for a McKinleyville wrestler since the state meet went to a single-division format back in 1973.

"For us, it's huge," Mack coach Virgil Morehead said. "It's just phenomenal that he achieved that. Third is right up there, and this is the premier high school tournament in the nation."

After going undefeated through three matches Friday, Kirby fell for the first time at the meet and just the second time all season when he lost his semifinal matchup with Southern Section champion Christian Arellano out of Canyon Springs High, 5-4.

"We were so close," Morehead said. "Within one takedown of getting to the final. And he wrestled really good to come back through and get third. He just performed at the level he had to."

Kirby, who was the only H-DNL wrestler to win a North Coast Section title last weekend, rebounded to defeat Stephen Alvia from Anderson High 5-3 in the consolation bracket, before clinching third overall by getting the better of Villa Park's Nick Diav by fall.

"I had good matches all day except for that first match," said Kirby, who closes out the year 44-2.

"When you're only a junior and you're competing against seniors that have been here two or three times, and when you succeed, that's quite an accomplishment," Morehead added.

Next season, according to the coach, Kirby will probably start as the No. 1 or 2 ranked wrestler in the state in his division.

Del Norte's James Mitchell, who also advanced to the second day of action Saturday, lost his matchup in the 119-pound consolation bracket, losing out 7-2 to Mario Estrada out of Calvary Chapel.

Arcata's Travis Brown at 171 pounds and Eureka's Adam Figas at 189 pounds, each also qualified for the state tournament, but failed to make it to day two.

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