BUCKLEY - With the exception of the season-ending State tourney in the Tacoma Dome, the White River Invitational in Buckley takes a back seat to no tournaments in terms of drawing quality athletes and high caliber prep wrestling teams.
The 2011 version of the White River invite, staged this past Saturday, held true to form.
Class 3A powerhouse Enumclaw came out on top of the 16-team field, compiling a tourney-best 212 points. Another 3A school, Bonney Lake, was runner-up with 169 points, followed by 4A Graham-Kapowsin in third place with 167 points. The fourth and fifth-place teams at the invite were an Oregon club and Yelm with 161 and 153 points, respectively.
Sunnyside's Grizzlies, who walked away with six third-place finishers in mostly the lighter weight classes, settled for sixth-place honors with an aggregate team score of 111.
"We were second last year, so I'm not really all that happy with our finish this year," said SHS Coach George Paulus.
The long-time Grizzly head coach quickly added, though, that his club didn't come into this year's tournament as fully prepared as in years past.
"We've had so many kids who have turned out for the team this year that we're a little behind where we should be." Taking that into consideration, Paulus said last Saturday's performances proved to be "...an OK showing.
"But we're going to condition pretty hard this week," Paulus promised.
Of the six Grizzly grapplers who earned third-place honors in last Saturday's tourney, five of them won their opening two bouts before dropping decisions in the semi-finals. The five included Jesse Barajas, Santos Guerrero, Nathan Gonzalez, Isidro Ramirez and Austin Carman.
Barajas, at 106 lbs., sustained his semi-final defeat against long-time friend Fidel Medina of Grandview. The Greyhound edged Barajas by a 6-5 score. The Sunnyside sophomore bounced back to blank Fred Green of 1A wrestling powerhouse Orting 7-0 in the consolation finals.
Guerrero, after opening with two wins at 120 lbs., ran into a buzz saw in the semi's in the form of Orting's Dylan Stiles. The evenly matched wrestlers went tit-for-tat, but in the end Stiles emerged the victor with a 13-11 overtime decision. Guerrero was pitted against another Orting grappler in the consolation finals, Bryce Templeman, but this time the Grizzly prevailed, winning 9-5 to secure third-place honors in his weight class.
The senior Gonzalez, wrestling at 132 lbs. and in search of a fourth consecutive trip to the 3A State tourney this season, suffered a 5-0 whitewashing in the semi-finals against Adam Romano, a Tacoma-area wrestler. Gonzalez picked up his third win on the day in the consolation finals, however, working his way past Woodinville's Everett Bingisser by a 7-2 score.
Ramirez, Sunnyside's 138-lb. entry in the tourney, registered falls against his first two opponents before sustaining a technical loss in the semi-finals to defending 1A State champion Shannon Maris of Orting. Ramirez recovered in the consolation finals, winning by injury default against Cole Snyder of Enumclaw.
Carman, at 220 lbs., was the last of the Sunnyside wrestlers to start the day with a 2-0 record. He met his match in the semi's, though, falling 10-1 to Enumclaw's Colton Malek. Carman put together a quick recovery to score an 8-6 victory against Inner Lake's Chad Peterson in the consolation finals.
The one other Grizzly grappler to bring home a third-place finish took a different route than his five teammates. Wrestling at 126 lbs., Christian Ruiz opened the tourney with a 15-2 win, only to advance to face three-time defending 1A State champ Drew Templeman of Orting. To his credit, said Paulus, Ruiz went the distance against the more experienced Templeman, before finally succumbing 17-2. By losing in the quarter-finals, Ruiz was forced to win three straight matches to earn a third-place finish. Those victories came against Victor Munoz of Yelm (4-0), David Castaneda of Grandview (3-2) and Karl Cline of Orting (8-2).
Sunnyside also had a pair of fifth-place finishers last Saturday, both of whom posted 3-2 records at the tournament. They were Daniel Guillen at 126 lbs. and Miguel Guzman at 195 lbs.