By Clay Fowler, Staff Writer
LA VERNE - While Etiwanda High School senior Jakob Miller extended his undefeated season on one mat, teammate J.J. Everard demonstrated on the adjacent mat the difficulty of staying unbeaten this deep into the wrestling season.
Everard dropped a 2-1 decision to defending CIF champion Dakota Behr of South Hills, which won the Damien High School Tournament of Champions on Saturday with 292 points to second-place Etiwanda’s 192.
“South Hills is a dynasty,” said Damien coach John Abad, whose Spartans finished ninth with 75 points. “This whole field was pretty tough. I’d say kids that finish in the top five here are going to place at CIF.”
Ontario finished third with 135 points, followed by Kaiser (129) and Apple Valley (122).
South Hills produced champions in six weight classes to Etiwanda’s three, but only once did the two schools match up in a final, the 189-pound brawl between Everard and Behr that was decided by a single point.
“Dakota kicks it into gear when something’s on the line,” South Hills coach Rob Froh said. “He does it in football, does it in baseball and he does it in wrestling.”
Perhaps more important than Everard getting his record tarnished, according to Etiwanda coach Larry Cutbirth Sr., was facing a wrestler the caliber of Behr, whom he may face down the road this season.
Etiwanda’s own defending CIF champion, Miller, won his 145- pound final over Oak Hills’ Zach VomSteeg 17-6. It was his 25th win in 25 matches.
“Coming off a CIF championship and going into CIF like this,” Miller said, “that’s pretty good.”
Etiwanda teammates Evan Coss and Larry Cutbirth Jr. won the 135- and 160-pound finals, respectively, but in drastically different fashion.
Coss pulled away from Ontario’s Sergio Reyes early in an eventual 20-10 victory while Cutbirth scratched out a gritty 5-3 comeback win over another Ontario wrestler. Jared Montanare led Cutbirth 3-2 entering the final two minutes, but an unnecessary- roughness call on Montanare tied the score at three before Cutbirth won it with a late reversal.
“I’m ecstatic to finish second,” Larry Cutbirth Sr. said.
“We’ve been consistently finishing in the top five this year, so I came here wanting to finish in the top five. South Hills is a really good team.”
Along with Ontario teammates Reyes and Montanare, undefeated Jaime Jimenez advanced to his final. The senior kept his record perfect and emerged the winner of the 140-pound class after surging to an 8-1 lead and holding on for a 10-1 win over South Hills’ Trevor Behr.
“There’s probably four or five wrestlers in the area who are undefeated right now,” Ontario coach Jimmy Gonzales said. “(Jimenez) wants to place in state. He’s got high hopes for himself this year.”
Kaiser produced a champion in dramatic fashion when Anthony Flores pinned Etiwanda’s Ramon Carlos in 3:15 to claim the 171-pound class. Kaiser, Ontario, La Puente, Walnut and Riverside North were the only schools to produce champions outside of South Hills and Etiwanda.
“I wanted our guys to come in and wrestle at a level they knew they could but hadn’t quite been getting to,” Froh said. “This is a lot crisper than we’ve been this year.”