VANCOUVER - For Sunnyside, a pair of sophomores - Isaac Romero and J.T. Gonzalez - and junior Ricardo Rivera brought home top honors this past Saturday from the Skyview Invitational.
All told Saturday, five Sunnyside High School wrestlers advanced to the finals, but seniors Steve Sanchez and Aaron Blanco settled for runner-up honors.
Coupled with a pair of third place finishes from sophomore Joseph Villanueva and senior Michael Graham, the Grizzly wrestling team gave a good accounting of itself at the seven-team invite. Sunnyside ended up in fourth place with 161 and a half points, less than 18 points behind the tournament champions, host Skyview (179 pts.), a 4A school.
Hudson's Bay, another 4A school, was second with 174 points and 3A Columbia River edged Sunnyside for third place honors with 168 points. Oregon's South Albany (145.5 pts.), Selah (132 pts.) and Jefferson (110 pts.) rounded out the team scoring.
"As a team, I wasn't real pleased with how we performed," said Sunnyside Coach George Paulus. "Only half the kids placed."
Paulus did note, however, that his wrestlers were behind the curve compared to the grapplers they faced in Vancouver this past Saturday. That's because most of the tournament competitors already had three of four bouts under their belt. Sunnyside's wrestlers were a bit rusty, as their first competition of the season-the White River Invitational in Buckley-was cancelled two weekends ago due to inclement weather.
The three Sunnyside wrestlers who won individual titles in Vancouver all posted 3-0 records at the invite.
Romero, at 103 lbs., advanced to the finals and decisioned Jefferson High's Terrance Warren, 8-1. Romero scored all eight of his points off takedowns.
In winning the 112-lb. title, Rivera pinned Brad Wisniewski of Skyview in the finals. Rivera scored the fall a minute and 15 seconds into the match.
Gonzalez, the 119-lb. titlist, edged Selah's Carlos Torres by a 5-4 score in the finals. The bout was knotted at 4-4 heading into the final period, but Gonzalez gained the upper hand by managing an escape while holding Torres scoreless in the third period.
In placing second at 125 lbs., Sanchez won his first two matches, only to fall to Brad Caldwell of Columbia River 15-10 in the finals. Caldwell stuck Sanchez onto his back with a takedown move in the opening seconds of the bout, and the Grizzly wrestler was unable to recover from the early 5-0 deficit. Paulus said he won't be surprised if Sanchez and Caldwell are battling it out in the 3A State finals next spring.
"They're both that good," he said.
Sunnyside's other second place finisher at the Skyview Invitational, 189-pounder Aaron Blanco, fell to Skyview's Spencer Vines in the finals Saturday evening. Vines pinned Blanco 57 seconds into the second round, trailing the Grizzly by a 2-0 score at the time.
Villanueva, in placing third at 130 lbs., knocked off Eric DeLay of South Albany 11-5 in the consolation finals.
Graham, the third place finisher at 152 lbs., was an 18-1 winner over Dolente Edwards of Jefferson in the consolation finals.
Sunnyside's junior varsity also competed at a tournament this past Saturday, at the Granger Ironman Invitational. The JV Grizzlies placed sixth from a field of 12 teams.
The JV Grizzlies' top finisher was freshman Steven Romero, the 103-lb. titlist. He scored a second round pin of North Beach's Andy Smith in the finals.
Second place finishers for the Sunnyside JV included senior Victor Reyes at 125 lbs., who dropped a 9-2 decision to Granger's Josh Russell in the finals; and freshman Baltazar Avalos at 130 lbs., who succumbed 13-8 to North Beach's Andy Wolfe in the finals.
Sunnyside freshman Trevor Gaskin-Herrera posted a 3-1 record in Granger to place third at 112 lbs. Fourth place finishers for Sunnyside included freshman Tony Garcia at 135 lbs. and senior Joey Tristan at 160 lbs., each of whom had 2-2 records at the Ironman competition.
Sunnyside is scheduled to open Mid-Valley League wrestling action at Selah this coming Thursday.