RICHLAND - With 12 medalists, the Sunnyside Grizzly wrestling team cruised to the team title at last Friday's Hanford Winter Cup invite.
In the process, Sunnyside defended last year's Winter Cup title and won its third tourney championship this month.
Sunnyside topped the field of 16 schools at Hanford with 235 points. Mt. Spokane was a distant second at 176.5 points and Richland tallied 169 points to round out the top three.
"Things pretty much went according to plan," said Coach George Paulus, who had to sit out the tourney due to a flu bug. Paulus' cold was about the only thing that didn't go right for Sunnyside, as seven Grizzlies advanced to the championship match in their respective weight classes.
That included the 113-lb. bracket, where Sunnyside teammates Jesse Barajas and Homer Romero tangled. Barajas, ranked first in the state, prevailed 5-2 over Romero, ranked fourth.
The tourney format only allowed each team to have one athlete in each weight class count towards team points. As a result Romero wrestled unattached.
Though having two grapplers in the finals didn't earn Sunnyside any extra points, Paulus says it's a good sign for the postseason, where every wrestler's score counts. "We'll have to do that in the future," he said of getting multiple grapplers to place in weight classes as a key to postseason success.
Another tourney titlist for Sunnyside, whose grapplers posted a combined record of 40-14 at the Winter Cup, was Santos Guerrero (120 lbs.), who defeated Mt. Spokane's Kiegen Schauer in the finale.
At 126 lbs., Sunnyside's Anthony Chavez bested the pack when he whipped Kennewick's Michael Hosfield 11-2 in the championship match.
Noe Palomino (145 lbs.) also earned a title for the Grizzlies with a pin in 3:59 over Mt. Spokane's Conner Reugsegger.
Reaching the championship match, but settling for runner-up honors for Sunnyside were Max Ramos (170 lbs.) and Austin Carmen (220 lbs.). Ramos was defeated in his title tilt by Richland's Cameron Simpson, 13-5. Carmen fell 10-2 to Mt. Spokane's Tom Harvey.
Due to the fact the one-day tourney featured 16-man brackets, wrestlers did not face-off for third and fifth-place honors but instead earned co-third and co-fifth place awards. That's in keeping with a state rule that limits grapplers to no more than five matches in one day.
As a result, Daniel Guillen (132 lbs.) of Sunnyside shared third place honors with Mt. Spokane's Richie Boundurant.
Guillen prevailed in the third-place semi-finals 10-0 over Hanford's Ben Hoffner to advance. Likewise, Sam Romero (152 lbs.) shared third-place honors for the Grizzlies with Chiawana's Austin Urlacher. Romero outpointed Mabton's Brandon Marquez in the third place semis 6-2 to advance.
Two other Sunnysiders also earned third place honors, Jacob Mendoza (106 lbs.) and Daniel Avalos (182 lbs.).
Mendoza shared his honors with Tamika Pierce of Richland. Mendoza defeated Southridge's Manny Casillas with a pin in 2:28 to punch his ticket to third place. Avalos tied with Southridge's Bryce Overholt for third place. The Grizzly earned his share of the bronze by pinning Richland's Edwin Gastelum in 4:11 in the third place semis.
Sunnyside's Ramon Hernandez (160 lbs.) and Christian Ruiz (138 lbs.) both earned a share of fifth-place honors.
While the Grizzly JV team will hold a tourney this coming Saturday, Sunnyside varsity wrestlers do not return to competition until Thursday, Jan. 10, at 7 p.m. in a home dual match against Davis.
"The bottom line is our conditioning is improving, but we still need to work on it and hammer it all the time," Paulus says of his team's focus during the long break. "We've got to be advancing both technically and conditioning-wise. We'll have some time to work on that stuff."