Prep Wrestling

Grizzlies maul district competition (w/ gallery)

PASCO — Coaches were squirming, as if their full-bodied contortions could somehow give their wrestlers an edge.

Fans were falling out of their seats, their full-throated hollers urging on the tournament's final two combatants.

The wrestlers ... well, they were a little preoccupied to really pay much attention to their surroundings.

Josh Romero's 11-4 win over Cody Rush in Saturday's CBBN 3A district tournament was postseason wrestling at its finest. The 145-pound final was full of fire and guts and drama, a two-point match that could have as easily ended in overtime as with the final seven-point margin.

And this is just the first step on the way to the Tacoma Dome and Mat Classic XXIII.

"I feel pretty set going into regionals," said Romero, one of 11 Sunnyside wrestlers who reached the district finals and among the six who stood on the top step of the podium when the day ended at Pasco High.

The Grizzlies ran away with the team title, piling up 4181/2 points and sending 24 of their 28 competitors through to next Saturday's regional back here at Pasco.

Pasco finished second with 298 points and 16 placers -- the top six advance to regionals, with the No. 6 seed facing a pigtail match against the Greater Spokane League's No. 3 wrestler.

Hanford led the rest of the back with 1801/2 points and 12 placers, with Southridge finishing fourth and advancing eight wrestlers.

The Romero-Rush bout was a fitting finish for the 145 bracket, which easily is four deep in state-quality talent.

Romero had the match's only two takedowns plus a reversal, but still led just 6-4 after Rush escaped early in the third.

The two spent the next minute searching for an opening before Romero seemed to get the upper hand during a scramble on the mat. But as the two tangled in the final 20 seconds, Rush suddenly found an opening and was on the verge of tying the match, with potential back points to follow.

"I started going after him with a chin whip, and that's when it got a little scary," Romero said. "I thought I might give up the two points (for a takedown) and it would be tied, but I was able to scramble out with no points."

Instead, Romero slipped around for the takedown and nearfall in the closing moments, giving a comfortable margin to an uncomfortably close contest.

"Those were some battles," said Pasco coach Jay Covington, referring to Rush's match as well as Albert Torres' 4-3 loss in triple overtime to Sunnyside's Adam Peters at 285. It's the second match in three weeks to go down to the wire between Torres and Peters, the favorite to win the 3A state title.

It wasn't all bad news for the Bulldogs in the finals. Hugo Mabry topped Sunnyside's Daniel Guillen 5-4 for the title at 125, Lonnie Hurley won the 152 crown with a pin of Southridge's Andrew Godinez, and Hector Jimenez posted an impressive 11-2 major decision over Eastmont's Darren Hardgrove at 171.

Hurley and Godinez traded takedowns in the first period, and the Suns senior led 3-2 heading into the second. But Hurley controlled all the action on the mat in the second, twice turning Godinez before finally ending it midway through the period.

"My uncle always taught me to set the pace in the first round," said Hurley, who last season as a sophomore finished fifth at district and moved up to fourth at regionals to be an alternate for state. "Keep control of the pace."

The Tri-Cities produced two more champions: Kamiakin's Sisto Santana Pina at 160 and Southridge's Randy Harris at 189.

Pina, a sophomore, repeated as district champ with an impressive 16-1 technical fall of Southridge's Kevin Del Angel, a fellow sophomore who knocked off the Nos. 2 and 3 seeds to reach the final.

Harris pinned Sunnyside's Miguel Guzman in the third period to end his match. He came in as the top seed at the weight, but that didn't mean the Suns junior was overflowing with confidence.

"I haven't done anything special -- my record this year is 14-14," Harris said. "But I've worked all year."

His coach, Dave Brown, said it's a matter of confidence for both Harris and Del Angel, whose record also hovers around .500.

"I've been telling them all year, 'You guys are this close to breaking through," Brown said. "It's all mental."

If that's the case, then the Sunnyside wrestlers can move mountains with their minds.

The Grizzlies dominated the lower weights, with Santos Guerrero (112), Nathan Gonzalez (119), Isaac Guerrero (130) and Isidro Ramirez (135) winning four of the first six weights.

That will give Sunnyside plenty of firepower in both top seeds and overall numbers heading into a regional showdown with University.

"Yeah, it's going to be hard," said Grizzlies coach George Paulus. "I'd rather it was fun."