Buchanan building wrestling empire around family

The Buchanan Bears wrestling team is poised to win a second straight team state championship, as head coach Troy Tirapelle is building an empire much like his dad's at Clovis high.

One year ago, in 2016, Buchanan won the state wrestling championship, ending a dominant run of five straight titles for rival Clovis. This weekend in Bakersfield, the Bears are favored to go back-to-back. Buchanan wrestling has become "a family thing," in more ways than one.

Junior Anthony Montalvo, ranked 1st in the state at 182 lbs, says, "Every team has that cliché that 'we're a family, we're a family'. You've heard it probably a thousand times, but it's kind of weird how close we are to be honest with you. I hang out with these guys in school. I hang out with these guys before school. I hang out with these guys after school, after season. This is not just seasonal friends. These are hopefully friends that I will have for the rest of my life."

When head coach Troy Tirapelle came to Buchanan six years ago, he felt like the wrestling team was below average - at least by the standards he grew up in. It is Troy's dad, Steve, who's coached Clovis to unprecedented winning the past 20 years. So to engineer success here, well, Troy hasn't strayed much from pops' formula.

"I don't want to give a percentage, because it might just be plagiarism. Imitation is the highest form of flattery. I'm not trying to reinvent the wheel. They're winning four miles away from us, like, doing this one thing. Now we do it our own kind of unique way, but the pillars or the philosophies don't change," says Tirapelle.

High accountability, high expectations. The kids have bought in - entering the state tournament, the Bears are ranked number one in the state and number one in the country. Six Buchanan wrestlers also have a very good chance at bringing home individual titles.

Tirapelle says, "If I'm doing something, I am going to do something to try and be the best at it. I think everything cool out of sports, or that you really use sports for, comes from the journey to try to be the best. Its everything you learn, and everything that is important."

A journey made sweeter when it's with family, and influenced by family.