Mar Vista junior Jesse Terminel was so excited during his 120-pound championship-round match at last Saturday’s San Diego Section Division III tournament at Mt. Miguel High School that he could hardly contain himself.
Nursing an 8-4 lead against Olympian senior Jose Gonzalez with time ticking down, the top-seeded Terminel could sense he was on the verge of accomplishing something special: winning his first-ever CIF title.
Finally, the Mariner grappler could no longer contain himself and suddenly released the second-seeded Gonzalez from a hold with three seconds left in their match, intentionally giving up a one-point escape.
The rest was surreal.
Terminel began prancing around the mat, arms raised in triumph, as Gonzalez stood rooted in stark disbelief.
Terminel was so overcome with emotion that he finally lay down on his back on the mat, clenching his fists, as time expired.
It was a magical, if unorthodox, way in which to clinch the weight class title. Officially, the final score was 8-5.
“My coaches said to leave everything on the mat,” said Terminel, who finished second at the previous weekend’s Metro Conference championship tournament. “It’s all about heart.”
Terminel (30-11) was one of five Metro finalists at the Division III championship tournament and among four conference wrestlers to win individual weight class titles at last weekend’s slate of four divisional tourneys.
Mar Vista senior Jon Nicoloff (29-9) joined Terminel as a CIF Division III champion after defeating Olympian senior Victor Huaracha for the 195-pound championship.
Otay Ranch junior Tommy Espinoza (38-0) captured the 106-pound title at the Division I tournament at Poway High School while Hilltop junior Jordan Griffin (29-7) claimed the 113-pound championship at the Division II finals at Westview High School.
All have to be considered contenders for state qualifying berths at this weekend’s San Diego Masters tournament at Otay Ranch High School. The top three place-winners in each weight class advance to the state championship tournament March 2-3 in Bakersfield.
Action starts Friday at 10 a.m. at ORHS and resumes Saturday at 9:30 a.m., with finals scheduled at 5 p.m.
The Masters brackets feature 24 wrestlers in each weight class. Section coaches refer to them as “meat-grinders.”
Above the rest
Nicoloff’s CIF title was equally dramatic as Terminel’s but in a different way. Nicoloff, the reigning Metro champion in the weight class, trailed Huaracha early on by a 5-0 score before winning the division on a last-second pin.
Instead of raising clenched fists, he lifted his coaches off the mat in celebratory bear hugs.
“It was a tough match,” said Nicoloff, who captured last year’s 189-pound Division title. “When I was down early, I looked over at my coaches and they gave me a reassuring look. They told me just to calm down. I chipped away at the score and I knew I could get my points back. I got him in a chicken wing for a near-fall to catch up and then I used another chicken wing to pin him with very little time left on the clock.”
Nicoloff’s pin time was officially 5:49. The fall came with just 11 seconds left in the match.
The back-to-back CIF champion’s hard work did not go unnoticed: He was named as one of the 20-team tournament’s two sportsmanship award recipients (joining Mt. Miguel senior 138-pounder Vincent Richmond).
Otay Ranch’s Espinoza decisioned Poway junior Tirso Lara, 6-5, to win the Division I title. The Mustang mat man was seeded second in the weight class and dispensed with his first two opponents by pins of 1:41 and 1:20 before recording a 12-4 major decision against Calexico sophomore Kevin Teran in the semifinals.
Espinoza finished seventh at last year’s state tournament and is a defending Masters champion. He said he remains focused on returning to Bakersfield and moving up the medals ladder. He remains ranked third in the state this season.
Hilltop’s Griffin also came out on top in another tense finals contest by defeating Rancho Bernardo junior Jeremy Rubic by a 9-7 score. The Lancer wrestler attributed his success to “hard work and a lot of practice.”
“CIF is a lot more hyped up (than a regular season tournament),” Griffin said. “You’ve got to keep focused, and keep on winning.”
The Metro Conference scored a healthy dose of respect with 10 finalists between the four divisional tournaments and 44 Masters qualifiers. (The Grossmont Conference had seven individual champions, 14 finalists and 48 Masters qualifiers.)
Gonzalez and Huaracha were among three Olympian finalists at the Division III tournament. Devon Flores, the reigning Metro champion at 182 pounds, finished runner-up by a 5-4 decision to University City sophomore Tyler Roman.
Flores and Huaracha, each seeded fourth in their respective weights, both upset No. 1 seeds in the semifinals to advance to the championship round.
Flores topped Mt. Carmel’s Chase Eckman by a 20-6 major decision while Huaracha pinned Ramona’s Josh Allen of Ramona in 33 seconds.
“This is the most finalists we’ve had in one season but we didn’t get a CIF champion this time like we did in 2010 (152-pounder Victor Viesca) and 2011 (heavyweight Jesse Perez),” OHS coach Aramis Vera said. “We’re hoping to keep on improving. We’ve never had a Masters placer — it would be nice to have one finally.”
Hilltop had three finalists at the Division II tournament. Junior Cruz Jaime (28-11) finished second at 106 pounds while senior Claudio Narez-Ortiz (18-9) finished runner-up at heavyweight.
Jaime lost a 5-2 duel to defending CIF champion Shawn Miller of Valhalla while Narez-Ortiz dropped an 11-0 major decision to Orange Glen junior Mario Williams. The Hilltop heavyweight pulled off one of the Division II tourney’s biggest upsets by taking out the top seed in the semifinals.
San Ysidro sophomore Miguel Flores (113) joined Otay’s Espinoza in the finals at the Division I tournament, placing second following a 7-0 loss to Poway freshman Colt Doyle.
Hilltop finished sixth in the team standings at the Division II finals while Mar Vista was sixth at the Division II finals, followed by Olympian in eighth place. Eastlake (ninth place) was the Metro’s top team at the Division I finals, followed by Metro finals team champion San Ysidro in 10th place — just one point behind.
San Diego Section Wrestling Championships
Metro Conference Place-winners
Division I at Poway High School
(Top 8 qualify for San Diego Masters)
1. Tommy Espinoza (Otay Ranch)
2. Miguel Flores (San Ysidro)
4. Tyler Bashinski (Eastlake)
3. Damian Acala (Chula Vista)
8. Colin Baroy (Eastlake)
7. Carflos Alberto Flores (Eastlake)
6. Pedro Alvarado (Chula Vista)
5. Mathias Mendillo (Eastlake)
5. Bogart Marquez (Chula Vista)
7. Kyle Petrin (Otay Ranch)
4. Misseal Rodriguez (San Ysidro)
8. Adam Olimski (Otay Ranch)
7. Francisco Solis (Otay Ranch)
6. Alejandro Gil (Eastlake)
8. Jesse Godoy (San Ysidro)
6. Oscar Quevedo (San Ysidro)
3. Gabriel Casillas (Eastlake)
8. Jon Bastien (San Ysidro)
Division II at Westview High School
(Top 6 qualify for San Diego Masters)
2. Cruz Jaime (Hilltop)
1. Jordan Griffin (Hilltop)
6. Wyatt Brenner (Hilltop)
5. Albert Navarro (Hilltop)
6. Andy Garcia (Bonita Vista)
3. Jon Velasquez (Hilltop)
2. Claudio Narez-Ortiz (Hilltop)
Division III at Mt. Miguel High School
(Top 6 qualify for San Diego Masters)
4. Josh Walters (Mar Vista)
1. Jesse Terminel (Mar Vista)
2. Jose Gonzalez (Olympian)
5. Jerzey Barbato (Mar Vista)
6. Jeremiah Deinla (Olympian)
6. Joey Schaeffer (Olympian)
6. Ernesto Lopez (Montgomery)
3. Rogelio Garcia (Southwest)
6. Carlos O'Connor (Castle Park)
5. Ricardo Moriel (Mar Vista)
6. Daniel Hernandez (Castle Park)
2. Devon Flores (Olympian)
6. Johnny Hayes (Mar Vista)
1. Jon Nicoloff (Mar Vista)
2. Victor Huaracha (Olympian)
5. Miguel Ballesteros (Montgomery)
4. Paul Sierra (Castle Park)
Division IV at Brawley High School
(Top 4 qualifier for Masters)
3. Sean O'Rourke (Mater Dei Catholic)
4. Alejandro Rivera (Mater Dei Catholic)