For the first time in quite a while, Hoover High's Arthur Ghukasyan took a break from wrestling this week.
Unfortunately for the 160-pounder, the circumstances were nothing like a vacation, but instead resembled a fight, as the senior was dealing with a bout of the flu in the days leading up to the season-ending CIF State Wrestling Championships at Bakersfield's Rabobank Arena.
"I actually feel pretty good and I'm getting better," Ghukasyan said of his progress Wednesday evening. "I had the flu this whole week and it slowed me down, but I feel OK now.
"If there's a good thing about the flu, it forces me to stop and now all my muscles are in place and I'm not sore anymore. I'm ready for state."
Of the 72 area wrestlers who began the season with aspirations of advancing to state, only Ghukasyan achieved the ultimate goal.
"For him to get this far is a testament to his work," Hoover Coach Dave Beard said. "We would love to medal, but we're definitely not looking past the first day. We're not overlooking anyone."
For Ghukasyan, his push through the postseason, which began with a Rio Hondo League championship on Feb. 1, has also seen his rising prominence and ranking.
"Arthur just didn't wrestle enough this season to get the recognition he deserved," Beard said. "But I knew that he was capable of really doing well, it was just a matter of getting him out there."
Ghukasyan was unranked throughout the season and even after his league title.
Yet, the judo-trained Ghukasyan went 3-1 through the CIF Southern Section Eastern Division championships at Perris Citrus Hill High from Feb. 22-23 and took second place.
That run moved Ghukasyan to No. 36 in state. After a 4-2 spurt that resulted in a fourth-place effort at last weekend's CIF-SS Masters Meet in Citizens Bank Arena in Ontario, Ghukasyan (21-3) is now ranked No. 20.
Ghukasyan begins his quest at 9 a.m. Friday with a bout versus Exeter High junior Tyler Coker, the ninth-place qualifier from the Central Section.
Coker, ranked 38th in state, is champion of the Redwood Invitational at 170 pounds and also wrestled at that weight when he took silver at the nearby South Pasadena Holiday Invitational on Dec. 27.
"We've called up [South Pasadena Coach] Al Shuton to get some info and we're confident," Beard said of Ghukasyan's impending bout with Coker.
While a loss would drop Ghukasyan into the elimination consolation bracket, a victory would vault the senior into Friday's second round against an unknown in Oakland Section champion Ebert Diaz, a junior from Leadership Public School of Richmond.
Diaz is perhaps the least heralded 160-pound wrestler at state and does have a notable victory listed outside of his sectional win.
Despite being a sectional champion, Diaz is ranked 39th in state.
Two victories would qualify Ghukasyan into the divisional quarterfinals against one of five wrestlers, with the most likely candidate being Chico High junior John Leal, who is ranked eighth in state.
Leal won five of seven regular-season tournaments as well as capturing the Eastern Athletic League, North Section Division I and Northern Section championships.
Should Ghukasyan face Leal, the Chico wrestler would be the third-highest ranked wrestler Ghukasyan will have faced this year behind Northview's Bryan Salinas (No. 3) and Santa Ana Calvary Chapel's Aaron Negrette (No. 4).
Individuals who place in the top eight through the two-day tournament will receive a medal.
"We're very proud of Arthur," Hoover High athletic director Jack Van Patten said. "It's nice to see a kid work his way up and get this far.
"He's already represented the school well regardless of what happens."