ELLENSBURG – A top-5 finish at Ellensburg last Saturday would have been considered a success for the injury-plagued Sunnyside Grizzly wrestling team.
Perhaps peaking at just the right time, the Grizzlies smashed expectations by winning the Ray Westberg Invitational’s team title. It’s the first tourney championship Sunnyside has claimed this season.
Sunnyside prevailed with 193.5 points to ease past Sumner and Othello at 183.5 and 180 points, respectively.
“The kids just performed really well,” said Coach George Paulus. “We won critical matches at critical points.”
Perhaps the Grizzlies’ best overall performance was turned in by Jesse Barajas (120 lbs.), who cruised to the championship in his weight class on the strength of a pin and technical fall. In the title match against Othello’s Alex Lauriano, Barajas prevailed 10-0.
The effort garnered Barajas “outstanding wrestler” honors in the 106 to 145 lb. weight classes. The honor was based on voting by coaches at the tourney. Othello’s Bubba Ruiz won the “outstanding wrestler” award for the heavier weight classes.
Sunnyside had a total of four individual champions on Saturday. They included Jacob Mendoza (106 lbs.) and Homer Romero (113 lbs.) Mendoza earned his title by nipping Selah’s Carlos Lopez 3-2 in the championship match. Romero outpointed Ellensburg’s Hunter Blair 5-0 to win his title match.
Rounding out Sunnyside’s championship quartet was Daniel Avalos (182 lbs.), who won his title tilt over W.F. West’s Shane Gibson by a score of 4-0.
Earning third place honors for Sunnyside was Noe Palomino (145 lbs.), with a 3-1 decision over W.F. West’s Michael Matagi in the third/fifth place match.
Sunnyside’s J.J. Rodriguez (138 lbs.) also brought home a third-place medal from Ellensburg after besting at-large wrestler Johnny Mendoza 8-1.
Two more Grizzlies earned third-place honors on Saturday. One was Andy Gomez (152 lbs.) in a 5-3 win over Wapato’s Juan Cortez in the third/fifth place finale. The other third-place finish for the Grizzlies was turned in by Xavier Cortez (285 lbs.). Cortez prevailed in convincing fashion in the third/fifth place tilt by earning a pin over Cheney’s Garret Pederson in 2:48.
Sunnyside’s ninth and final medalist was Victor Ramos (220 lbs.), who finished fifth in his weight class.
Paulus said one of the impressive things about Sunnyside’s wrestlers at the Ellensburg invite was that although five lost in the semifinals, all of them rebounded to eventually medal.
“There’s always the question that if they lose a semi how will they do in the next (loser-out) match,” he said.
The Grizzlies answered that question in resounding fashion by sending nine grapplers to the podium.
Even more promising for Sunnyside’s postseason hopes, the Grizzlies even had a 10th wrestler place. That was Elias Romero, who wrestled at 106 lbs. Since tourney rules only allowed each school to enter one wrestler in each weight class, Romero competed as an at-large competitor and garnered third-place honors with a 3-2 nipping of Kittitas’ Paco Marin in the third/fifth place finale. “That didn’t help us with scoring, but when we get to the postseason he’ll score for us,” said Paulus.
The coach also noted that winning all four of the championship matches featuring Grizzly wrestlers was huge given that Sunnyside led Sumner by just nine points and Othello by only six heading into the championship rounds.
Sunnyside’s home league finale is this coming Thursday night. The senior night contest will see the Grizzlies take on Eastmont.