BUCKLEY - The Sunnyside Grizzly wrestling team opened the 2010-11 campaign in fine fashion this past weekend with a second-place finish at the prestigious White River Classic.
"That's the best we've ever done there," said Grizzly Coach George Paulus. "It's a really strong tourney."
The tough field included two-time defending 3A State champion Yelm.
Sunnyside's 173.5 team points were second only to Orting with 185. Yelm was third with 166, Bonney Lake fourth at 150.5 and Enumclaw sixth with 148 points.
The Grizzlies, who were fifth at the same tourney last year, stunned the field by outpointing the defending 3A State champs.
"To be able to pop into a tourney and beat the defending (3A) State champion, that's something," Paulus said. "A lot of people are expecting them to win it again but this (Sunnyside's showing) adds a new wrinkle."
The key to Sunnyside's success was advancing four wrestlers to the championship finals. Though all four ended up with second place honors, it represented the most wrestlers Sunnyside has ever had in the White River finals.
Nathan Gonzalez (119 lbs.) of Sunnyside had a 3-1 record at White River and finished second after losing 7-3 to Andrew Cunningham of Bonney Lake.
Sunnyside's David Vidales (145 lbs.) was 3-1 and also claimed second place honors after losing 8-2 in the championship finals to Joel Palabrica of Everett.
The Grizzlies' other two runner-ups were Josh Romero (160 lbs.) and Lupe Mendoza (171 lbs.), who both finished the tourney with 3-1 records. Romero was defeated 5-2 by Nikka Veltri of Orting, a defending State champ, while Mendoza was pinned by Mitchell Homemyer of Curtis High School.
The Grizzlies also received a boost to their team score by having five wrestlers earn third-place honors; Jesse Barajas (103 lbs.), Santos Guerrero (112 lbs.), Isaac Guerrero (130 lbs.), Emmanuel Tejeda (140 lbs.) and Adam Peters (285 lbs.).
Rounding out Sunnyside's highlights at White River were four Grizzlies who earned fifth place honors.
Two of the fifth place wrestlers, Juan Barajas (135 lbs.) and Daniel Guillen (125 lbs.), saw their success contribute points to the Grizzly team total.
Two other Sunnyside wresters bringing home fifth place recognition, Frankie Ochoa (285 lbs.) and Isidro Ramirez (140 lbs.), did not count on the Grizzly point total. That's because they were listed as unattached as they were extra wrestlers Sunnyside had available in some weight classes.
At White River, each school could only have one wrestler in each weight class for team scoring purposes.
It all adds up to a promising start for the Grizzlies this season.
"The guys understand what we have going this year, there could be something big here," Paulus said. "We're pretty happy with this, I thought we could hang with these guys and we proved it. The key now is to sustain this and get better."
Sunnyside returns to action this coming Thursday in a dual match at Kennewick.