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Grizzly grapplers second at invite

FIFE - Competing in just its second tourney into the young wrestling season, the Sunnyside High School wrestling team looked in mid-season form last Saturday at the Larry Brown Invite in Fife.

The Grizzlies posted a second-best team score of 187 points in the 16-team field. Yelm took the team title with 208.5 points and Forks was third at 164.5.

Sunnyside posted its best showing of the season despite missing Jose Barajas at 215 lbs. due to a knee injury. A total of nine Grizzlies made the medal stand, including four individual champions with perfect records of 4-0.

Sunnyside's Stephen Romero took the title at 112 lbs. by defeating Patrick Benson of Yelm in the championship match by a score of 6-1.

Just a week earlier at White River, Romero lost to Benson on the way to taking third-place honors. "Stephen wrestled much more competitively and used some of the skills he's learned," Sunnyside Coach George Paulus said. "He turned his game around and wrestled more the way we want him to wrestle."

Also earning first-place honors for the Grizzlies was Isaac Romero (119), who pinned Matt Welk of Issaquah's Liberty High School in the title bout.

Josh Romero topped the podium for Sunnyside at 125 lbs. with a pin of Forks' Tyler Kerschner. J.T. Gonzalez rounded out the perfect Grizzly quartet with a 2-0 decision over Michael Petrovich of Forks in the 135-lb. final match.

Earning third-place medals with 4-1 records for Sunnyside were Christian Reyes (103), Shawn Olivarez (130) and Baltazar Avalos (140).

Paulus praised the effort by Olivarez after a tough pair of matches last Thursday at West Valley High School. "He didn't wrestle up to his capability on Thursday," the coach noted. "We told him it was important to correct a few things and do well, and he did."

Rounding out the Sunnyside medal crew were Danny Alvarez (152) and Jesus Mendoza (171), who each finished with 3-2 records for fifth-place honors.

The other four Grizzlies to compete at Fife were Caleb Gomez (145), Andrew Swinehart (160), Danny Almeida (189) and Adam Peters (285), who all finished with 1-2 records.

Paulus said the key for Sunnyside's success in taking second place as a team was because all four Grizzly finalists finished with wins for first place individual honors. The same was true for the trio of Grizzlies who advanced in the consolation round all the way to third-place.

Team scoring was so close, said Paulus, that Sunnyside was actually in sixth place after the first round of competition before advancing on.

Paulus praised his team for lessons learned last week in surrendering to opponents too quickly, even in close matches. "We made it personal," he said. "I told them they have to be willing to fight to the end."

Sunnyside, a 3A school, will test its resolve this coming Tuesday at Eisenhower High School with a double dual meet against the 4A Cadets and Davis.

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