YAKIMA - Last night's season opener for the Sunnyside High School wrestling team at the Eisenhower Takedown Tournament yielded a couple of surprises for the Grizzlies.
The most notable was that senior Steve Sanchez, the defending 3A State champ at 119 lbs., didn't bring home top honors last night in the 125-lb. weight class in which he competed.
The second surprise was of a more positive nature. Freshman Tony Garcia, in his prep debut, ran his record to 3-1 to garner a third place finish at 140 lbs.
Wednesday evening's tournament drew wrestlers from 12 schools. Each match-with scoring limited to just takedowns-was only a minute and a half in length.
When all was said and done, Sunnyside secured one first place finish, that coming from 152-pounder Michael Graham. The veteran grappler was victorious in all three matches he competed.
Despite only bringing home one first place finish, the Grizzlies had to be pleased they earned 11 "Top Four" placings from the 14 different weight classes. And of those, four were second place finishes.
Sanchez's second place finish, via his 3-1 record at 125 lbs., was the result of a loss to one of the Avalos brothers from Toppenish. Coach George Paulus said the Wildcat wrestler basically ran from Sanchez the entire match, staving off any and all action.
Sunnyside's Isaac Romero, competing at 103 lbs., could have easily come home a first place winner, had it not been for the flip of a coin. Second at the 3A State tournament last season, Romero piled up three wins last night, but ended up tying a wrestler from Davis High School, a State tourney veteran, himself. Tournament rules called for the flip of a coin in case of a tie, and the Pirate got lucky, which left Romero with the second place finish.
Ricardo Rivera of Sunnyside, sixth at the 3A State tourney last season, also garnered a second place finish last night. Rivera, in the 112-lb. weight class, posted a 3-1 record, with his lone loss to highly regarded West Valley wrestler Devin Stiltner-Moorman, second at 3A State last season.
The one other second place finish earned by the Grizzlies last night came at 189 lbs. Aaron Blanco won three matches and lost only once enroute to the runner-up performance.
Of the three third place finishes nabbed by Sunnyside, the freshman Garcia's was perhaps the most satisfying. The 140-pounder racked up three victories against just one loss.
"I was very pleased with Tony's efforts," said Paulus, "Especially with him only being a freshman."
Also notching 3-1 records for third place finishes were Sunnyside's Joseph Villanueva at 131 lbs. and Zeke Galvan at 145 lbs.
Villanueva, a sophomore who qualified for State as a freshman, sustained his one loss in a controversial match to an Avalos brother from Toppenish. The question of whether or not Avalos truly made weight at 131 lbs. was brought into play, as it appeared the Wildcat wrestler was well over the limit. None of the wrestlers were required to weigh in before last night's matches.
A trio of Sunnyside wrestlers rounded out the Grizzlies' "Top Four" finishes. Placing fourth were Eric Mejia at 119 lbs. with a 2-2 record, Joey Tristan at 160 lbs. with a 2-2 record, and James Van Wingerden at 171 lbs. with a 2-1 record.
Competing for Sunnyside, but not placing, were Jose Salinas at 135 lbs. (2-2) and Kyle Tyler at 215 lbs. (1-1). Tyler was scratched from the tournament after sustaining a minor knee injury in his second bout.
Sunnyside 275-pounder Angelo Salazar was held out of last night's action because of a minor training mishap earlier in the week.
The Grizzly wrestling team is scheduled to compete at the White River Invitational in Buckley this coming Friday and Saturday.