WEST RICHLAND - The Sunnyside High School wrestling team took a small army, 27, in all to the 3A Sub-regional tournament at Hanford High School this past weekend and seven of them advanced to this coming week's Regional tournament.
The Grizzlies will have home court advantage as the Regional tournament will be staged in Sunnyside on Saturday.
The top four placers in each weight class qualified for Regionals.
Sunnyside was fourth at Sub-regionals with 173.5 points. Clarkston won the Sub-regional crown with 310 points. Ellensburg, the Mid-Valley League champs, was second with 222.5 points. Cheney rounded out the top three with 176.5. West Valley-Yakima finished fifth with 141 points.
"We got seven guys through, which is pretty good," said Sunnyside Coach George Paulus. "It (Sub-regionals) was a pretty competitive deal."
Despite finishing first, Clarkston didn't qualify that many wrestlers for Regionals, only advancing 11.
Sunnyside's first champion was Steve Sanchez at 112 lbs. Sanchez, who won the JV qualifier the previous week, went 4-0 for the Grizzlies to win the Sub-regional crown. Sanchez pinned Hanford's Brandon Edwards in the finals in 1:32. One of the competitive matches, which fans should see again this weekend, said Paulus, was the semi-final pairing between Sanchez and Grandview's Nestor Soriano. Sanchez won the match 10-7.
"It was a really good match," said Paulus.
Ray Romero, who is ranked the No. 1 3A wrestler in the State at 145 lbs., won the second Sub-regional crown for the Grizzlies. Romero won a 5-4 battle with Ellensburg's Kameron Beedle in the finals, securing a takedown in the third round to get the win. Paulus said the finals match was the hardest match of the day for Romero, who looked sharp.
The Grizzlies' final Sub-regional champion was Joe Evans at 171 lbs. Evans met Kyle Walker of Selah in the finals. Evans won the match 4-2. Paulus said Evans wrestled a lot more solidly than the first time the two met to end the regular season.
Grizzly freshman Ricardo Rivera was the first of the consolation champions for the Grizzlies. Rivera beat Kodey Desjardin 2-0 to place third at 103 lbs. Paulus said he is looking forward to seeing what Rivera can do at the Regional tournament.
Rudy Martinez took the long road at 140 lbs., but still won the consolation championship. Martinez (4-1) defeated Selah's A.J. Martinez 5-4 to place third. Martinez lost a heartbreaker in the semi-finals, 3-1, to Colt Heger of Clarkston, who went on to win the Sub-regional title.
At 215 lbs., Gabe Lara, who was the No. 1 seed going into Sub-regionals, finished third. After letting a third period lead slip away to Josh Campbell of West Valley-Spokane, who won the semi-final encounter 5-3, Lara came back in the consolation championship and destroyed Justin Garland of Cheney, 18-0.
"Gabe looked good except for his semi-final match," said Paulus. "He got kind of passive in the match."
Grizzly heavyweight Pete Garza (4-1) wrestled the best of any of the Sunnyside grapplers, said Paulus.
"Pete did real well," said Paulus.
Garza beat Cody Myers of Hanford 9-2 to place third. Garza, though, lost a tough semi-final match to top seeded Charlie McIntosh of Ellensburg by pin in 5:56. Garza was ahead 5-3 at the time.
Reece Paulus had a noteworthy outing at 160 lbs. Paulus went 2-3 and placed sixth, losing 15-4 to Hanford's Jared Stoker, a No. 2 Sub-regional seed.
Paulus had beaten Stoker earlier in the Sub-regional tournament 8-1. Paulus lost 9-3 to Ty Aiken of Clarkston to fall into the consolation bracket. Paulus had injured his jaw in his first round match and didn't look the same as Sub-regionals progressed. Stoker also eliminated another Sunnyside wrestler from Sub-regionals, beating Victor Moreno, who was 1-2, in a consolation match.
Jesus Alquicira also went 2-3, at 103 lbs. for the Grizzlies, losing to Matt Babino of Clarkston in 4:59 to place sixth.
Finishing 1-2 for Sunnyside at Sub-regionals were Michael Christensen, 119 lbs.; Jose Salinas, 119 lbs.; Greg Burbidge, 125 lbs.; Charlie Alvarez, 125 lbs.; Eric Garcia, 130 lbs.; Juan Salinas, 135 lbs.; Ulysses Olivarez, 145 lbs.; Michael Graham, 152 lbs.; Victor Moreno, 160 lbs.; and Carlos Padilla-Garza, 189 lbs.
Finishing 0-2 for the Grizzlies at Sub-regionals were Alex Valencia, 112 lbs.; Mark Uribe, 130 lbs.; Omar Magana, 135 lbs.; Humberto Martinez, 140 lbs.; John Van Wingerden, 171 lbs.; Omar Ramirez, 189 lbs.; and Casey Smith, 215 lbs.
. Mike Kantman can be contacted at (509) 837-4500, or email him at email@example.com