YAKIMA - The Sunnyside wrestling team continued its early season roll with a first-place finish at the Sundome Mat Classic last Saturday.
It marked the second time in three years the Grizzlies brought home the top team prize from the Yakima invite. Sunnyside distanced itself from the rest of the field with 225 points. Zillah was second at 196.
The next CBBN school was nearly 100 points back, as Wenatchee finished seventh with 130 points.
"There were 25 teams, so there were a lot of good kids in it, from Ellensburg all the way down to the Tri-Cities," said Sunnyside Coach George Paulus. "You never know what's going to happen."
Sunnyside had far and away more good athletes at the event, sending four grapplers into championship matches and having several wrestlers finish in the top eight of their respective weight classes.
The lone Grizzly individual champion was Daniel Avalos (182 lbs.), who defeated Granger's David Cantu 13-5 in the finale.
Anthony Chavez (126 lbs.), Ramon Hernandez (160 lbs.) and Noe Palomino (145 lbs.) all earned runner-up honors for Sunnyside when they lost their championship matches.
The Grizzlies enjoyed a double-dip pointwise in the 113-lb. weight class by having two grapplers compete in the third-place match. Homer Romero was able to secure third place honors when he defeated teammate Jacob Mendoza 11-2. Mendoza, a freshman, settled for fifth place honors.
Paulus said Mendoza was actually a late addition to the Grizzly line-up because invite organizers needed another wrestler in that weight class.
"Here's Jacob, a freshman, and no one expects anything from him and all of a sudden he's in the third place match," Paulus said of having team depth and challenges to his starters. "He's building the skills and when you have that competition it's a good situation to have develop."
Sunnyside's Jesse Torres (106 lbs.) brought home a fourth-place medal when he edged Ellensburg's Hunter Blair 1-0 in the fourth-place match.
Austin Carmen (220 lbs.) also claimed a top five finish, earning fifth-place honors when he lost in the third-place match.
The remainder of Sunnyside's medalists had to battle through the consolation round after losing early in the competition.
"We weren't prepared and lost several first-round matches," Paulus said. "We were in sixth place at one time, so we came in through the back door. That's how you win, staying in it and not getting eliminated."
That included Sam Romero (152 lbs.), who tallied points for Sunnyside with a pin in 1:20 over Klahowya's Eli Everson in the seventh place match.
That same scenario played out for Grizzly Daniel Guillen (132 lbs.), who prevailed in the seventh-place match with a 5-1 decision over Granger's Adrian Morales.
Isaac Palomino (195 lbs.) and Xavier Cortez (285 lbs.) each claimed top eight finishes for Sunnyside with victories in their respective eighth-place matches.
Sunnyside's Christian Ruiz (138 lbs.) battled to a sixth-place finish when he lost the fourth-place match.
Rounding out Grizzly placers at Yakima was Santos Guerrero (120 lbs.) after losing in the seventh place match.
The Grizzly varsity wrestling team now has a break before travelling to the Hanford Invite on Friday, Dec. 28.
Paulus says his squad will use the time well.
"We're gonna hammer conditioning...push it to a higher level," he says. "We'll focus on technique, work on stand-ups and take downs and increase the wrestling IQ...be more mental about the game."