SPOKANE - Sub-Regional wrestling action begins tomorrow afternoon in Spokane. On paper, Mid-Valley League champion Sunnyside, along with the Ellensburg Bulldogs and the host East Valley Knights appear to be the favorites to win the Sub-Regional title.
Both Sunnyside and Ellensburg are taking 24 wrestlers to the postseason tourney, the most of any of the Mid-Valley League teams. The host Knights appear to be the team to beat from the Spokane league.
"East Valley is very strong this year," said Sunnyside Coach George Paulus, who earlier this week was named Mid-Valley League coach of the year. It is the third time Paulus has been so honored.
The top five finishers in each weight class at Sub-Regionals will advance to the Regional tourney, to be hosted by Ellensburg on Saturday, Feb. 12.
Sunnyside's top three prospects at moving on to Regional action all placed at last year's State tournament. They are seniors Steve Sanchez and Pete Garza, and sophomore Ricardo Rivera.
Sanchez, 22-1 on the year at 119 lbs., finished sixth at State last season and placed fourth his sophomore season. Sanchez's lone loss this season came in the Grizzlies' tournament opener, against Sedro Woolley's Kevin O'Neal. Paulus said he won't be surprised if Sanchez and O'Neal meet up to wrestle for the State title in Tacoma the weekend of Feb. 18-19.
Garza was an eighth place finisher at State last season. Wrestling at 275 lbs., Garza has compiled a glitzy 24-4 record this season. Like Sanchez, he enters Sub-Regional action as the Mid-Valley League's No. 1 seed.
Rivera, only a sophomore, already has a fourth place finish at State on his resume. He enters Sub-Regional action as the Mid-Valley League's No. 2 seed, after posting a 23-6 record this season.
The Grizzlies also have another five wrestlers who appear more than capable of advancing to the Regional tournament. They include 103-pounders Isaac Romero and J.T. Gonzalez, Joseph Villanueva (125 lbs.), Michael Graham (152 lbs.) and Victor Moreno (160 lbs.).
Both Romero and Gonzalez are freshmen. Romero, who earned the Mid-Valley League's No. 1 seed into Sub-Regionals, is 27-3 this season. Gonzalez, with an overall mark of 25-5, earned the No. 1 JV seed into this coming weekend's postseason affair. Gonzalez, despite being relegated to JV action this season, has defeated the Mid-Valley League's No. 2 seed into Sub-Regionals, Prosser's Pedroza. Gonzalez opens Sub-Regional action against Pedroza.
"We're thinking both Romero and Gonzalez are good enough to move on," said Paulus.
Villanueva, another freshman, earned the No. 3 seed into Sub-Regionals via his 20-8 overall record.
Graham's record this season is just 13-14, but Paulus is excited about the junior's chances. "He's really come on here at the end of the season," said Paulus.
Moreno takes a 22-7 season record into Sub-Regionals. He enters the postseason tourney as the Mid-Valley League's No. 1 seed in his weight class.
Sunnyside, too, has four wrestlers who appear to have very good shots at extending their season past Sub-Regionals. They are junior Jose Salinas (125 lbs.), senior Greg Burbidge (130 lbs.), junior Frankie Candido (171 lbs.) and junior Carlos Garza-Padilla (189 lbs.).
Salinas, who filled in all season long for the Grizzlies at different weight classes, has tallied an impressive 16-11 record. He enters Sub-Regionals as the No. 1 JV seed.
Burbidge was hampered by a thumb injury most of the season, but wrestled late in the year and posted a 3-4 record. He is a No. 4 seed.
Candido also enters Sub-Regionals as a No. 4 seed. He posted a mark of 9-8 this season.
Garza-Padilla was 19-12 this season and proved he can compete with the league's best.
The 12 other Grizzlies who are looking at advancing on to Regionals, along with their combined varsity and JV records, include:
• sophomore Eric Mejia, 19-10 at 112 lbs.
• junior Victor Reyes, 17-6 at 119 lbs.
• sophomore Tomas Pena, 18-10 at 130 lbs.
• senior Juan Salinas, 6-14 at 135 lbs.
• freshman Jeff Van Wingerden, 7-12 at 135 lbs.
• senior Omar Magana, 10-19 at 140 lbs.
• freshman Sam Bardell, 18-13 at 140 lbs.
• sophomore Zeke Galvan, 4-7 at 145 lbs.
• senior Ulysses Olivarez, 4-8 at 152 lbs.
• senior Daniel Cruz, 13-12 at 215 lbs.
• junior Casey Smith, 10-10 at 215 lbs.
• senior Anthony Salazar, 17-3 at 275 lbs.