RICHLAND - The Lower Valley has long been a hotbed for producing quality prep wrestlers. This year is no exception.
Don't believe it?
Consider then, the results from yesterday's annual Hanford Winter Cup....where Grandview, Prosser and Sunnyside finished first, second and third, respectively, from the 15-school field. All told, the Greyhounds, Mustangs and Grizzlies had a combined 13 wrestlers featured in the 14 championship bouts, with five of them earning titles.
Of the five individual weight class champs, two hailed from Sunnyside-sophomore J.T. Gonzalez at 119 lbs. and senior Steve Sanchez at 125 lbs.
In winning the 119-lb. championship, Gonzalez upped his season record to 12-0. The Sunnyside sophomore went 4-0 on the day, giving him his third tournament title of the year in as many outings. In the finals, Gonzalez blanked Grandview's Dalton Walker, winning by a 6-0 score.
Sanchez, who won the 119-lb. 3A State title last season as a senior, was granted an extra year of eligibility this year by the WIAA. The second year senior is making the most of his opportunity. In capturing the 125-lb. title at Hanford yesterday, Sanchez beat up on Nick Heneghen of Yakima's West Valley High School in the title bout, scoring a 13-4 decision. Sanchez scored two second period near falls against the Ram wrestler enroute to winning top honors.
Sunnyside Coach George Paulus was happy with the performances of his two tourney titlists, as well as the efforts of five of his other wrestlers who between them brought home two runner-up finishes and three third place showings. But, Paulus was left to wonder what might have been had he had his full varsity squad available to him yesterday.
"We were missing four starters," he said, noting that one of the grapplers brought up to fill in for a missing varsity wrestler didn't even get to wrestle because he didn't make weight. "Considering that, we did OK," Paulus said of the team's third place finish.
Amazingly though, even with nearly a third of the starters out, the Grizzlies totaled 173 team points in the tourney. That was just six and a half points behind second place finishing Prosser. Grandview tallied 204.5 points in winning the team title.
The fourth through eighth place finishing teams at the Winter Cup competition included host Hanford (170), West Valley of Spokane (154.5), Richland (147), Wapato (136.5) and West Valley of Yakima (130).
Sunnyside's two second place finishers Wednesday were 103-pounder Isaac Romero and Ricardo Rivera at 112 lbs.
Romero, a sophomore, advanced to the finals via three consecutive wins. In the 103-lb. championship match, he was edged 3-2 by Prosser's Eddie Pedroza.
"The Prosser kid scored a takedown against Isaac in the last minute," said Paulus in explaining how Romero (11-1) sustained his first defeat of the season.
The junior Rivera, after winning his first three bouts of the day, faced a buzz-saw in the 112-lb. finals when he went up against Deven Stelter-Moorman of West Valley. The Ram wrestler, second at the 3A State tournament the last two seasons, clipped Rivera by a 4-3 score thanks to scoring a reversal in the final minute of the championship bout.
Paulus said Stelter-Moorman has had his way with Rivera for the past couple of seasons, but yesterday's performance by the Grizzly shows that Rivera has closed the gap considerably against his West Valley foe.
Sunnyside's three third place finishers yesterday were junior Zeke Galvan at 140 lbs., senior Michael Graham at 152 lbs. and junior Angelo Salazar at 275 lbs. All three posted 3-1 records in the tourney.
In the consolation finals, Galvan decisioned Southridge's Mitch Rausch by a 4-2 score; Graham claimed a 16-1 technical fall against Prosser's Nathan Bauer to improve to 12-3 on the season; and Salazar scored a second round pin against Brett Schoenberger of West Valley of Spokane.
The two other Grizzlies who placed at the Hanford tournament were junior Tomas Pena at 130 lbs., fifth via a 2-2 record; and senior James Van Wingerden at 171 lbs., seventh with a 3-2 mark.
Sunnyside returns to Mid-Valley League action next Tuesday evening with a home match against Ellensburg.