Staff photo by Leo Jarzomb
By Red Williams
WHITTIER – It wasn’t even close.
The California High School’s wrestling team took a firm grip on the Del Rio League leadership with a dominating 47-11 victory over visiting La Serna on Wednesday.
The series between these neighborhood rivals has been decided by 10 points or less in the last eight years, and most of the sizeable crowd expected the same.
This time, however, Cal (5-2, 4-0) won the first six matches to take a commanding 27-0 lead and put the meet out of reach for the Lancers (8-4, 2-2).
Included in that onslaught was a pin in the second match (132 pounds) by the Condors’ Nate Espinoza. He had a 4-0 lead over Brian Gracie and finally earned the fall at :29.4 in the second period.
Teammate Omar Lopez was even quicker for the Condors at 154 pounds, where he pinned Matt Mendoza at just 53 seconds of the first period.
In all, California had four pins in the match. Anthony Espinoza dispatched Niko Swengart at 162 with 1:14 left in the second period, and Chris Garcia pinned Gerardo Valenzuela at 115 with just 32.8 seconds left in the first period.
“Our kids stepped up with some heart,” California coach Doug Loo said. “This is the best we’ve performed all year.
“A lot of matches could have gone either way. This was rewarding because our coaches and kids have been really working hard.”
The Lancers finally broke through with a victory when Jacob Cantu defeated Robert Rosa, 10-8, at 172 pounnds. Rosa nearly pulled that one out after trailing 10-5 at one point.
“Cal wanted it more,” La Serna coach Pete Pietrantoni said. “They wrestled tonight; we didn’t. It was a good, old-fashioned wrestling match.”
Pietrantoni felt his athletes appeared a bit awed by the importance of the match.
“Stepping into the spotlight separates the men from the boys,” he said in likening some of his wrestlers to “deer in the headlights. And Cal was not. They did a great job.”
Anthony Ayala won the only other match for the Lancers, a 9-8 triumph at 184 pounds over Nathan Lowden. Ayala fell behind 5-0 in the first period and nearly lost the match on a fall with 43 seconds left. The match went into overtime when Lowden was penalized with a pair of one-point violations in the last 19 seconds. Ayala took the match at 31.1 in overtime with a takedown.
La Serna also earned three points when California was forced to forfeit the 220-pound match.
Perhaps the most exciting match occurred at 147, won by Cal’s Alphonso Lucero over David Zoellner, 14-11. Lucero trailed, 8-2, midway through the second period, then rallied with a pair of reversals before Zoellner scored a 3-point near fall just as the buzzer sounded. But Lucero responded with an escape, a takedown and his own near-fall with 50 seconds to go for the victory.
Other winners for the Condors were Adrian Chavez at 128 over Rocky Carillo, Mark Gonzalez (140) over Omar Herrera, Eduardo Cerda (197) over Nick Piarello, Raul Cruz (heavyweight) over Nick Rivera, Richard Pocock (108) over Ronnie Schmidt and Elias Mercado (122) 21-5 over Brandon Galvan.