VANCOUVER - With four grapplers advancing to the finals, and three of them coming away with top honors, the Sunnyside High School wrestling team earned a third place finish at the Skyview Invitational this past Saturday.
"We showed a little competitive spirit this time around," said Sunnyside Coach George Paulus, comparing this past Saturday's showing with his team's outing the previous week at the White River Invite, where the Grizzlies placed 10th.
In tallying a third best 156 points at the Skyview tourney, Sunnyside brought home three individual titles. One of them was earned by the Grizzlies' top gun this season, senior Steve Sanchez, who secured his second 119-lb. invite championship in as many outings this year.
Sanchez, a sixth place finisher at last season's 3A State tournament, posted a 3-0 record in Vancouver on Saturday. In the finals, he bested an Auburn/Riverside opponent, pinning him with three seconds left in the match.
"Up until the Auburn kid got flipped on his back there at the end, Steve had been leading 2-0 for just about the entire match," Paulus explained.
The Grizzlies' two other individual titlists were freshman Isaac Romero and senior Peter Garza.
Romero, who faced 101-pounder Kyle Hammack of Auburn in the finals, eked out a victory by throwing his opponent after the bout was extended to overtime. Romero was 3-0 on the day.
Garza, Sunnyside's 275-lb. wrestler, also compiled a 3-0 record Saturday. He defeated Tommy Hafer of Port Angeles by a 5-2 score in the finals.
The Grizzlies' Ricardo Rivera, at 112 lbs., also advanced to the finals. The freshman was upended in the championship round, though, by a national freestyle wrestling champion who hailed from Auburn. Rivera settled for the second place finish.
Sunnyside, too, had three third place finishers on Saturday. Winning their consolation finals matches were Joseph Villaneuva (125 lbs.), Victor Moreno (171 lbs.) and Carlos Garza-Padilla (189 lbs.). All three Grizzlies tallied 3-1 records at the tourney. Villanueva was a 14-2 winner over Mitch Carey of Skyview in his final match of the day. Moreno decisioned Auburn's Lucas Warren 3-1 in his consolation finals match. Garza-Padilla bested Skyview's John Duerr 10-1 in his last bout of the day.
Notching fourth place finishes for Sunnyside were Omar Magana, 2-2 at 140 lbs., and Michael Graham, 2-2 at 152 lbs.
Not placing, but picking up one individual win on the day for Sunnyside, were Juan Salinas (135 lbs.) and Lionel Candido (145 lbs.).
The Grizzly grapplers are scheduled to host Selah this coming Thursday in what will be Sunnyside's Mid-Valley League opener. Two days later, on Saturday, Sunnyside will be competing at the Mt. Vernon Invitational.