By Brian Reed-Baiotto, Correspondent
WEST COVINA – Arguably the biggest factor in Tuesday’s wrestling showdown between reigning CIF team champions Downey and West Covina was the Bulldogs’ football program. West Covina plays in Friday night’s CIF-Southern Section Southeast Division championship game, and six wrestlers are on the roster. Visiting Downey took advantage of four West Covina forfeits and used those 24 team points to outlast the feisty Bulldogs 48-30.
West Covina split the 10 matches it competed in and all five victories were achieved via pin.
“If you saw how far we’ve come from last week’s loss to Covina and to compete against a great program like Downey without several of our wrestlers, you’d understand how proud I am of my kids,” four-time CIF champion coach Donnie Stephens said. “We made some great strides tonight and I think they proved to me that we’re going to be pretty good once we get everyone back.”
Miguel Vargas (106 pounds) pinned Downey’s Andrew Lopez just 39 seconds into the first period to give West Covina a 6-0 team lead.
Ronald Casasola (113) defeated the Bulldogs’ Anthony Alvarez to get the Vikings to within 6-3 and Daniel Martinez (120) and Enrique Carrasco (126) then picked up victories via forfeit.
After Danny Rivas’ (132) 4-3 decision over West Covina’s Jesse Jaime, Downey held a commanding 18-6 lead. But the Bulldogs didn’t lay down as Ivan De La Torre (138), Matt Jimenez (145) and Andy Hernandez (152) picked up consecutive victories via pin to give West Covina its last lead of the match, 24-18.
Downey’s Valentino Ochoa (160) pinned Adam Caballero at 1:52 to tie the match at 24-24 and the Vikings’ Nathan Amezcua (170) pinned Alex Caceres in 1:01 to give Downey a 30-24 lead they did not relinquish.
“I was pretty disappointed with the effort our kids gave tonight, because it seemed like they weren’t ready to go,” back-to-back CIF champion coach Miguel Soto of Downey said. “I know West Covina is a great program and they’re missing guys to football, and maybe we just weren’t as focused as we needed to be.
“I’m obviously glad we won, however.”
West Covina’s Jesse Enriquez (195) pinned Jorge Guerrero just before the end of the second period and Downey’s Brandon Fonseca (220) made short work of West Covina’s Oscar Rosalez with a pin in 18 seconds.
Downey’s Robert Suarez (182) and heavyweight Robert Chism both won via forfeit.
“We’re very happy for coach Mike Maggiore and the football program and want them to win a CIF title, but we can’t wait to get our kids back,” said Stephens, who along with his wife Shirley has built a top wrestling program at West Covina over the last 17 years.