Coming off a successful debut at the Eisenhower Takedown Jamboree in Yakima this past Tuesday, the Sunnyside High School wrestling team is headed to Buckley to compete in the prestigious White River Invitational.
"We'll be leaving about 10 o'clock this morning," SHS Coach George Paulus said bright and early Friday. "It's a two-day, 16-team tournament. There'll be some powerhouse teams there."
Paulus, like many Grizzly fans, is expecting good things from his wrestlers this weekend. Especially after they adeptly showcased their skills this past Tuesday at the Ike takedown tourney.
"Twelve of the 14 kids we took to Ike placed in the top four," said Paulus.
And three of them, surprisingly, were freshmen. The top placing underclassman turned out to be freshman Joseph Villanueva, who notched a second place finish in the 125-lb. weight class. Freshmen Isaac Romero (103 lbs.) and J.T. Gonzalez (112 lbs.) earned third place finishes on Tuesday.
Two of the Grizzly veterans, Steve Sanchez and Peter Garza, excelled as well on Tuesday. Sanchez, a sixth place finisher at the 3A State tourney last season, won the 119-lb. weight class title at Ike. Garza, eighth at State last season, claimed Tuesday's 275-lb. championship.
Sanchez's victory in the 119-lb. finals came against a West Valley Rams grappler who was the 3A State tournament runner-up last season. Garza's win in the finals was against a wrestler from Toppenish who defeated the Grizzly last season.
Besides Sanchez, Garza and the freshman Villanueva making it to the final round this past Tuesday, Sunnyside's Juan Salinas (135 lbs.) and Omar Magana (140 lbs.) also advanced to the championships. Like Villanueva, Salinas and Magana settled for runner-up honors.
Joining the Sunnyside freshmen Romero and Gonzalez as third place finishers at the Ike tourney were teammates Michael Graham and Carlos Garza-Padilla.
The Grizzlies also had two fourth place finishers in Tuesday's tournament-Victor Moreno at 171 lbs. and Aaron Blanco at 189 lbs.