BUCKLEY - Senior Steve Sanchez was one of the few bright spots for the Sunnyside High School wrestling team this past Friday and Saturday.
Competing at the prestigious White River Invitational, which traditionally draws many of the state's top grapplers, Sunnyside settled for a 10th place finish from the 16-school field.
"The White River tournament is a good measuring stick for us," said SHS Coach George Paulus. "It's one of the toughest tournaments in the state. Going up against quality wrestlers there shows us where we're at early on.
"It was a typical beginning to our season," he added. "Some of the guys aren't there yet, some are."
One of the wrestlers who apparently is there, is the senior Sanchez. A sixth place finisher at the 3A State tourney last season, Sanchez earned a runner-up placing this past weekend.
Competing at 119 lbs., Sanchez worked his way through the preliminary rounds with a perfect 3-0 record to advance to the finals. His reward-facing off against national freestyle wrestling champion Kevin O'Neal of Sedro Woolley. To the surprise of some on hand at the invite Saturday evening, Sanchez got the best of O'Neal, forging a 4-2 lead on the Sedro Woolley wrestler.
"But with about 10 seconds to go in the match Steve got reversed and put on his back," said Paulus. The reversal and near pin points, five in all, gave O'Neal a narrow 7-4 victory.
Sanchez was the only Grizzly who advanced to the finals Saturday night. But to Sunnyside's credit, two of the Grizzlies did qualify for the consolation finals.
Of the two, senior Peter Garza wrestled to victory. Competing at 275 lbs., Garza edged Grandview's Andrew Morales, 5-3, to earn the third place finish. Garza posted a 4-1 record at the two-day tourney.
Sunnyside's other consolation finals qualifier, sophomore Ricardo Rivera, had to forfeit his 112-lb. trophy round match because of an eye injury sustained earlier in the day. Paulus said Rivera was actually poked in both eyes and was unable to face his consolation finals opponent. Rivera's tournament record was 3-1.
The one other Sunnyside wrestler who placed at the White River invite was freshman Isaac Romero. The underclassman finished in fifth place at 103 lbs. Romero posted a 4-2 record through the course of the two days. "It was a pretty good outing for a freshman," said Paulus.
The only other Grizzly to win more than one bout at the Buckley competition was freshman Joseph Villanueva (125 lbs.). Villanueva didn't place, but ran his tourney record to 2-2.
Posting 1-2 records for Sunnyside were junior Jose Salinas (130 lbs.), senior Omar Magana (140 lbs.) and senior Victor Moreno (171 lbs.). Finishing with 0-2 records were Sunnyside's Juan Salinas (135 lbs.), Ulysses Olivarez (152 lbs.), Michael Graham (160 lbs.) and Aaron Blanco (189 lbs.). Sunnyside did not have a 215-pounder at the tourney.
Team-wise, Sedro Woolley took top honors, accumulating a tourney best 279 points, thanks to advancing nine wrestlers to the finals. Eastmont was second with 200 points, Everett third with 154. Sunnyside tallied 80 points for 10th place honors.
. Bob Story,can be contacted at
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