Cruz Del Angel is no different than any other wrestler. They all have quality coaches and are taught the same basic principles of the sport. It all comes down to how you use your tools.
Del Angel, a senior at Kiona-Benton High School, is a master craftsman, winning his third consecutive 1A state title in February and running his win streak to 116 matches.
His performance on the mat this season at 182 pounds earned him the Heralds All-Area Wrestler of the Year honor.
I have the confidence and mentality that they arent any better than me, Del Angel said of his approach to matches.
Del Angel, whose record stretches back to the start of his sophomore season, won by technical fall (17-2) over Markus Goldbach of Freeman in this years title match. In his four state matches, two were by pin and two by technical fall.
Along with a good work ethic, Del Angel draws inspiration from his brother Ramon, who died in a cliff diving accident near Vantage in 2009, and his mother Pamela, who died of breast cancer in 2011.
My drive is my brother and my mom, Del Angel said. The last match she saw, I lost. I did it all for her.
And now that the feat has been accomplished?
It felt real nice to get it all locked up, he said. Its a big accomplishment.
Del Angel wrestled at 152 pounds as a freshman, going 1-2 at state. A little wrestling trivia: Castle Rocks Levi Godinho was the last person to beat Del Angel 7-3 in the state consolation bracket on Feb. 19, 2011.
He won a state title at 170 pounds as a sophomore and at 182 his junior and senior years, and his record of 116 consecutive wins is thought to be a state record.
I lost track somewhere my junior year, he said. If I wanted to know, Id just ask the manager and they would tell me. I didnt know it was that high until they told me.
Del Angel plans to extend his wrestling career. He is leaning toward North Idaho, but he said Boise State has been after him to make a visit.
Del Angel is one of eight state champions on the first team, including Isaiah Barrera (106, Othello), Jesse Torres (113, Sunnyside), Jesse Barajas (120, Sunnyside), Timmy Martinez (126, Pasco), Diego Castaneda (132, Grandview), Roberto Orozco (145, Connell) and Bubba Ruiz (285, Othello).
Sunnysides George Paulus was named Coach of the Year.
Thats cool, said Paulus, who just finished his 26th year at the helm. Ive been conference coach of the year, regional coach and even the state coach of the year. This is a first.
Sunnyside capture a third-place trophy at the Class 3A tournament for the second year in a row. The Grizzlies, who had five wrestlers place in the top eight, were three points behind second-place Decatur, and 11 1/2 behind champion North Central.
They put together a pretty good little run, Paulus said of his team. We knew we were going with eight guys and we felt we had the individual talent to win it. We lost a couple of guys at regionals that could have factored in. The bittersweet part is we were so close.
Barajas, who was 40-1 this season, became Sunnysides second four-time state medalist after Isaac Romero in 2008. Torres, a junior, finished the season 20-4.
Paulus said Barajas is headed to the University of Jamestown in North Dakota to continue his wrestling career.
Castaneda was one of two state champions for the Greyhounds, with Fidel Medina winning at 113 (second team). They are Grandviews first state champions since George Graf won the 168-pound title in 1991.
On the girls side, Grandview junior Marizza Birrueta and sophomore Desiree Zavala (130) captured their second consecutive state titles and ended the season a combined 58-0 against girls.
Birrueta, fresh off her third district title and second regional title, won state at 106 pounds, beating Haley Franich of Puyallup 5-4. She finished the season 34-4, with all four losses to guys as the Greyhounds regular 106-pounder. She was named the girls all-area Wrestler of the Year.
The Grandview duo was one half of the four state champions on the All-Area team. Deianeira Caudle (100, Warden) and Tatum Sparks (137, Othello) were the others.
Warden, which won the girls state title in February, has four wrestlers on the team.
106 Jacon Mendoza, so., Sumnyside
113 Fidel Medina, sr., Grandview
126 Hans Rockwell, jr., Riverside
132 Manny Martinez, jr., Othello
138 Joesiah Saunders, sr., Grandview
145 Emilio Pruneda, jr., Warden
152 Kareem Johnson, sr., Kiona-Benton
160 Emilio Bustos, sr., Royal
170 Tyler Vargas, jr., Chiawana
182 Roman Cortez, so., Pasco
195 Sam Shields-Colbray, so., Hermiston
220 Michael Finn, sr., Hermiston
285 Armando Garcia, sr., Hermiston