The underdogs clearly had a blast at last Saturday’s Metro Conference wrestling championships at Sweetwater High School. Those cheering loudest were members of the San Ysidro Cougars, who captured team titles in both the varsity and junior varsity fields.
Surprise champions? Not so, according to third-year coach Mario Ramirez, whose team finished 19-0 in dual meet competition this season.
“We’ve been improving each year,” Ramirez said. “It takes time to develop a program. These guys here have been with me the last three years going year-round. We’re excited.”
San Ysidro’s team championships underscored a terrific showing by the conference’s South Bay League teams, which combined to win six of the 14 individual weight class championships in each of the varsity and junior varsity fields.
The Cougars, reigning South Bay League dual meet champions, out-pointed Mesa League juggernaut Hilltop by 14.5 points to win the varsity team title and racked up a 13.5-point edge over Eastlake to capture the JV team championship.
San Ysidro finished the daylong event with three varsity champions and five JV champions.
Varsity champions included Miguel Flores (115 pounds), Andres Escalante (154) and Jon Bastien (heavyweight). The Cougars also had one finalist: Jesse Godoy (197).
Flores improved to 23-8 after recording a win by a 1:49 fall in the finals against Eastlake’s Tyler Bashinski in a match-up of top seeds. Flores finished the tournament with three pins. Escalante, top-seeded like Flores, advanced to the championship round on the strength of two pins. He capped his championship performance with a 13-2 victory by major decision in the finals against second-seeded Anthony Ardagna of Hilltop.
Bastien improved to 28-5 by pinning top-seeded Paul Sierra of Castle Park in the first period. Bastien, seeded second, finished with three falls in his three matches. He opened the tournament in dominating fashion with pins of 27 and 52 seconds.
The Cougars’ JV champions included Jose Reyes (122), Robert Ala Torre (147), Mario Yorba (162), Bruno Tirado (172) and Alejandro Cazarres (287).
Otay Ranch junior 108-pounder Tommy Espinoza (lower weight MVP) and Olympian senior Devon Flores (upper weight MVP) earned honors as the varsity tournament’s outstanding wrestlers.
Espinoza improved his undefeated record to 34-0 after recording a 12-4 major decision over Hilltop’s Cruz Jaime while Flores (18-2) became the Eagles’ first-ever conference champion after pinning Chula Vista’s Jaylon Candler (19-14) in the second period of their 184-pound title match.
Flores pointed to the Olympian cheering section in the stands (very ecstatic at that point) following his triumph. “It feels good,” said Flores, who was a member of the school’s history-making Mesa League championship and Division III finalist football team. “I feel so satisfied that all my hard work paid off. But I have to give credit to all my coaches for helping train me and I want to thank the whole team for their support all season.”
Espinoza went right to work on the mat with pins of 1:28 and 45 seconds in his opening two matches. He entered February ranked third in the state after placing seventh last year. He said the crunch part of the season is just starting in his quest to return to Bakersfield.
Chula Vista, the hosting team, had four finalists and two champions. Damian Alcala (122) and Bogart Marquez (147) each won weight class titles.
Alcala improved to 27-8 after defeating Mar Vista’s Jesse Terminel (27-11) by an 8-2 decision in a match-up of top seeds while Marquez (30-7) unseated 2011 conference champion Casey Stanko of Eastlake by a 13-0 major decision.
Alcala showed off his slick moves with pins of 2:57 and 1:35 in two preliminary matches.
Stanko saw his record drop to 24-12 with the finals loss.
Spartan 134-pounder Pedro Alvarado (24-10) joined Candler with a second-place medal.
CVHS head coach Daryl Butterfield said he felt reward for his team’s hard work is starting to show. “The coaching staff at Chula Vista High School was been working hard for the past couple years and the results from last year and this year are encouraging,” he said. “I’ve heard great compliments from the community about our program. We just want to be equal to the task.”
Mar Vista, the South Bay League dual runner-up, had three finalists en route to a fourth-place team finish. Jon Nicoloff, seeded second, defeated top-seeded Godoy of San Ysidro, 8-5, to win the 197-pound title.
Junior Rodriguez (14-9) finished second at 140 pounds to join Terminel with a silver medal.
The varsity finals featured one of the closest championship races in history with three teams separated by just six points heading into the medal round. San Ysidro held a 3.5-point lead on Hilltop entering the finals. The reigning Mesa League dual champion Lancers finished second with 152 points (to 166.5 for SYHS) while Eastlake, the Mesa League runner-up, was third with 145 points.
Overall, the awards were spread out, with grapplers from nine schools winning varsity titles.
Hilltop and Eastlake, the top two teams from the Mesa League, each sent four wrestlers to the finals but emerged with only one weight class champion apiece.
Hilltop’s Jon Velazquez, seeded third, won the title at 222 pounds. He defeated top-seeded Oscar Lezcano of Southwest by a 10-3 decision in the championship round.
Eastlake’s Mathias Mendillo emerged with the 140-pound title following a 7-5 victory against Mar Vista’s Rodriguez in the finals.
The EHS grappler had a sizable chunk of his season lost due to injury but began his comeback with a second-place finish at January’s Holtville Invitational.
Recording second-place finishes for Hilltop were Jaime (108), Ardagna (154) and Early (162) while Eastlake’s finalists included Bashinski (115), Stanko (147) and Matt Martinez (172).
Let the light shine down: underdogs prove top dogs at Metro mat finals
As always, the Metro Conference wrestling tournament produced its share of thrills and disappointment. And, perhaps most of all this year, surprises.
The Mater Dei Catholic Crusaders (Mesa League) and Castle Park Trojans (South Bay League) both failed to win a dual meet this season, yet came away from last Saturday’s 13-team tournament with two varsity weight class champions apiece.
Mater Dei, which finished 0-5 in Mesa League duals, produced sparks in the lower weights as sophomore Sean O’Rourke and junior Alejandro Rivera won championships at 128 and 134 pounds, respectively.
The Trojans, who finished 0-6 in South Bay League duals, provided the thunder and lightning in the upper weights as sophomore Carlos O’Connor (162) and junior Daniel Hernandez (172) each captured individual titles.
“It was pretty exciting representing my school in the finals,” said O’Rourke, who turned his weight class upside down by advancing as the fifth seed (out of 11 wrestlers in the weight bracket) to claim the title.
Both O’Rourke (25-14) and Rivera (28-11) went 5-0 at January’s Mater Dei Catholic dual tournament to make a splash — and serve notice.
O’Rourke capped his championship run with a 1:18 pin in the finals against Bonita Vista’s James Harlan, another upset-minded contestant. Meanwhile, Rivera upheld his No. 1 seeding with a 3-0 showing that included two opening-round pins.
Rivera recorded a 7-1 decision against Chula Vista’s Pedro Alvarado in the championship match.
Both weight classes were filled with upsets. Harlan defeated both the No. 2 seed (San Ysidro’s Sergio Ramirez) and No. 3 seed (Mar Vista’s Jerzey Barbato) in his weight class while Alvarado upset the No. 2 seed (Olympian’s Joey Schaeffer) in his division to reach the finals.
MDC head coach Scott Ullsperger said both Crusader champions were a source of “pride” both to himself and assistant coach John Sardella.
“Rivera has been among the top performers in the conference,” Ullsperger said. “His success is a direct reflection of his effort in the room.
Although I am not surprised by his finish at the Metro championships, it is incredibly rewarding as a coach to see him as a champ.
“Sean is only a second-year wrestler who worked his butt off in the offseason and has become a true student of the sport,” Ullsperger continued. “There were a few guys at 128 pounds we had not faced yet and I had some concerns about how we might match up. Sean faced up against challenging opponents and earned his spot as a champion.”
Castle Park had three finalists overall, with senior Paul Sierra (19-5) finishing runner-up in the heavyweight class.
O’Connor, the No. 5 seed, toppled the No. 4 seed (Chula Vista’s Jesse Orduno) by a 5-1 decision in the quarterfinals before handing top-seeded Missael Rodriguez of San Ysidro a 12-6 loss in the semifinals.
O’Connor pinned Hilltop’s Jeremy Early (No. 2 seed) in the championship round in 1:30.
In a match-up of top seeds, Hernandez (No. 1) improved his season record to 29-2 after recording a 12-5 victory against Eastlake’s Matt Martinez (No. 2) in the finals. Hernandez pinned Southwest’s Pedro Soto in 12 seconds to open the tournament and tacked on a 1:08 fall in the semis against San Ysidro’s Alan Garcia.
“At the end of the season, everyone picked it up,” CPHS coach Robert Schertzer said. “Everyone was feeding off the energy from Daniel, Carlos and Paul. That’s a positive thing for us.”
METRO CONFERENCE WRESTLING CHAMPIONSHIPS
Feb. 11 at Sweetwater High School
Varsity Team Standings
Points: 1. San Ysidro 166.5, 2. Hilltop 152, 3. Eastlake 145, 4. Mar Vista 108, 5. Chula Vista 106, 6. Olympian 95, 7. Otay Ranch 91, 8. Castle Park 86, 9. Bonita Vista 84, 10. (tie) Southwest, Mater Dei Catholic 52
MVP lower weight: Tommy Espinoza (Otay Ranch), 108 pounds
MVP upper weight: Devon Flores (Olympian), 184 pounds
Parade of Champions
108: Tommy Espinoza (Otay Ranch) major decisioned Cruz Jaime (Hilltop) 12-4
115: Miguel Flores (San Ysidro) pinned Tyler Bashinkski (Eastlake) 1:49
122: Damian Alcala decisioned Jesse Terminel (Mar Vista) 8-2
128: Sean O’Rourke (Mater Dei Catholic) pinned James Harlan (Bonita Vista) 1:18
134: Alejandro Rivera (Mater Dei Catholic) decisioned Pedro Alvarado (Chula Vista) 7-1
140: Mathias Mendillo (Eastlake) decisioned Junior Rodriguez (Mar Vista) 7-5
147: Bogart Marquez (Chula Vista) major decisioned Casey Stanko (Eastlake) 13-0
154: Andres Escalante (San Ysidro) major decisioned Anthony Ardagna (Hilltop) 13-2
162: Carlos O’Connor (Castle Park) pinned Jeremy Early (Hilltop) 1:30
172: Daniel Hernandez (Castle Park) decisioned Matt Martinez (Eastlake) 12-5
184: Devon Flores pinned Jaylon Candler (Chula Vista), second period
197: Jon Nicoloff (Mar Vista) decisioned Jesse Godoy (San Ysidro) 8-5
222: Jon Velazquez (Hilltop) decisioned Oscar Lescano (Southwest) 10-3
287: Jon Bastien (San Ysidro) pinned Paul Sierra (Castle Park), first period
108: Taku Furukawa (Bonita Vista) pinned Christian Haffer (Eastlake) 1:32
115: Kian Douglas (Bonita Vista) decisioned Josh Walters (Mar Vista) 10-3
122: Gabriel Estrada (Hilltop) pinned Jose Gonzalez (Olympian) 2:45
128: Jeremiah Deinla (Olympian) decisioned Jerzey Barbato (Mar Vista) 3-2
134: Joey Schaeffer (Olympian) pinned Ezequ Nevarez (Hilltop) 4:57
140: Hector Rodriguez (Chula Vista) decisioned Xavier Plasencia (Hilltop) 5-3
147: Albert Navarro (Hilltop) decisioned Manuel Razo (Otay Ranch) 9-2
154: Bran O’Connor (Castle Park) decisioned Kyle Petrin (Otay Ranch) 9-2
162: Misseal Rodriguez (San Ysidro) pinned William Ramirez (Bonita Vista) 2:35
172: Tyler Kekic (Hilltop) decisioned Ronnel Jamir (Sweetwater) 10-4
184: Rodni Ordonez (Eastlake) decisioned J. Torreblanca (San Ysidro) 3-0
197: Zach Ayala (Bonita Vista) decisioned Victor Huaracha (Olympian) 11-8
222: Oscar Quevedo (San Ysidro) pinned Hector Behran (Mar Vista) 1:52
287: Sergio Garcia (Eastlake) pinned Victor Diaz (Montgomery) 1:37
Junior Varsity Team Standings
Points: 1. San Ysidro 161.5, 2. Eastlake 148, 3. Hilltop 135.5, 4. Olympian 130, 5. Bonita Vista 89, 6. Sweetwater 62, 7. Otay Ranch 60.5, 8. Mater Dei Catholic 50, 9. Chula Vista 31, 10. Castle Park 30, 11. Montgomery 18
Weight Class Champions
108: Nathan Humiston (Bonita Vista). 115: Jacob Tropp (Eastlake). 122: Jose Reyes (San Ysidro). 128: Carlos Flores (Eastlake). 134: Juan Rubalcava (Eastlake B). 140: Drake Madarang (Hilltop). 147: Robert Ala Torre (San Ysidro). 154: Kaleb Miller (Olympian). 162: Mario Yorba (San Ysidro). 172: Bruno Tirado (San Ysidro). 184: Kim Tongson (Sweetwater). 197: Jesus Arriaga (Bonita Vista). 222: A.Valenzuela (Hilltop). 287: Alejandro Cazarres (San Ysidro).
For details, pick up Friday’s print edition of The Star-News.