KENNEWICK - The Sunnyside High School wrestling team grabbed second-place honors this past weekend at Subregionals and qualified eight wrestlers for the Regional tourney this coming weekend at Eastmont.
The Grizzlies' 220.5 team points at Subregionals, held in Kennewick, were second only to East Valley of Spokane, which collected a total of 294.5 points.
Sunnyside's eight qualifiers for Regionals includes a quartet of individual Subregional champions, starting with Steven Romero at 105 lbs.
Romero was 4-0 and won the title in his weight class with a 13-4 major decision in the finals over Keith Babington of East Valley of Spokane. "He dominated the whole match," says Sunnyside Coach George Paulus. "He gave up an early takedown, but reversed it right away."
Also at 105 lbs., Sunnyside qualified Christian Reyes, who finished third on the day with a 4-1 record. Reyes had wrestled at varsity all year for the Grizzlies, before Paulus strategized that Reyes would dominate the JV qualifying tournament, then join Steven Romero in the same weight class at Regionals.
Romero's two brothers, Isaac and freshman Josh, also cruised on to Regionals with titles in their respective weight classes.
Isaac, a senior, went 4-0 at Subregionals, taking the 114-lb. weight class crown with a 5-0 win over Eli Garza of Southridge in the championship match. Romero led just 2-0 after two periods, but tallied an escape and a takedown in the final period to pull away.
Romero, now 36-1 on the season, also solidified his place in the history books, as his four wins give him 141 for his career, breaking the former Yakima Valley career win mark of 137, which he shared heading into Subregionals.
Garza was 29-1 heading into the title match, and Paulus thinks it won't be the last time the two wrestlers tangle. "They'll probably see each other in the (Regional) finals next week," he said.
Freshman Josh Romero (121 lbs.) won his weight class with a 10-3 decision over Matt Mehbrach of East Valley of Spokane in the finals.
Sunnyside's fourth individual champion was J.T. Gonzalez at 137 lbs., who sewed up the title in the finals with a 13-2 romp over Kyle Van Horn of Eastmont. Gonzalez and Van Horn were ranked second and fourth among State 3A wrestlers in their weight class heading into the match.
Sunnyside received a pleasant surprise from JV qualifier Emmanuel Tejeda, who captured the fourth and final berth to Regionals in the 127-lb. weight class. Tejeda punched his ticket to Regionals with a 9-3 decision in the consolation semi-finals over teammate and fellow JV qualifier Jorge Ramirez, who ended up placing sixth.
"We had quite a few points added to our team total through them (JV qualifiers)," Paulus said. "We've got some good kids who can win matches on a playoff basis."
Rounding out Sunnyside's Regional contingent are Shawn Olivarez (132 lbs.) and Danny Alvarez (154 lbs.), who earned third-place honors in their respective weight classes.
Olivarez grabbed the bronze with a 7-4 whipping of North Central's Jamie Ramsey in the consolation finals. Olivarez was nursing a 2-1 lead into the final period before pulling away. "Shawn had a good tourney," Paulus observed.
Alvarez finished in third, winning the consolation finals with a 5-3 decision over Corbin Richardson of Mount Spokane. Like Olivarez, Alvarez was holding onto a slim lead, 2-1, heading into the third period.
"I think it's just conditioning," Paulus said of his athletes' ability to turn a deficit or narrow lead into solid wins in the final minutes of a match. "They're in good condition and can make good decisions under stress."
Sunnyside had three other wrestlers place, as Nick Martinez (132 lbs.), Jesus Mendoza (173 lbs.) and Frank Rivera (217 lbs.) each finished sixth in their respective weight classes.
The Grizzlies now turn their attention to Regionals this coming weekend at Eastmont High School. The top four wrestlers in each weight class there will advance to the Mat Classic for State competition Feb. 15 and 16.
Sunnyside sent five wrestlers to Regionals last year, so Paulus is pleased with the eight he gets to take this year. "This is a good number for us," he says. "I was hoping for 10, but I'm happy with what we've got."
Paulus said training will go up a notch this week.
Without tipping his hand too much to the competition, Paulus noted, "This week we're going to be working on some conditioning that is a little bit out of the ordinary so they'll be prepared," he said.
It may mean more hard work than usual, but Paulus' wrestling pupils know the system has generated proven results. "They know what's coming up," he chuckled as he talked about the training that awaits. "But they see some results with success, and that shows the kids that working hard benefits them."