SANTA MARIA — With a 2017 CIF Southern Section Northern Division team duals championship in the bag, the Righetti High School Warriors entered the PAC 8 League favorites and did not disappoint their home fans at RHS on Saturday.
Fending off the chasing Paso Robles and Pioneer Valley, the Warriors (238.50) took the league championship and the Bearcats (223.50) moved past PVHS (212) to earn second place.
As a team, Atascadero provided a league champion in the 106-pound division with a dominant performance by Trevor Straeck, who defeated Arroyo Grande’s Isaiah Apodaca with a major decision, 14-2.
“Trevor had a slow start [to the season] at the Duca tournament,” AHS head coach Greg Hazelhofer said. “In league he was 6-0. He is really turning it on. He is much more aggressive, and he got his weight under control.”
Righetti dominated the championship round with champions in the 120, 126, 132, 138, and 182 divisions. They were runner-up in the 152 and 285 (heavyweight) divisions.
Second-place Paso Robles earned championships in the 160, 170, 195, and 285 divisions, and runner-up in the 132, 145, and 182s.
“Getting seven guys in the finals, with four champs, it was a good day over all,” PRHS head coach John Acevedo said.
Heading into the final rounds, Paso Robles jumped into No. 2 behind Righetti, with an appetite for more.
“It was close,” Acevedo said. “We knew we had a chance to beat them. We would have had to win about every final match.”
On his way to a PAC 8 League championship, Straeck dispatched two wrestlers with ease.
“There really was no hesitation,” Hazelhofer said. “I had no moment of doubt with him. He is one of those guys who knows what works, knows what doesn’t. He stays out of trouble and just stomped through the tournament.”
In the first match of the day, Straeck pinned Max Perez of Paso Robles in the first round. In match No. 2, he took down Pioneer Valley’s Luis Corrales with a technical fall, scoring 15-0.
That was good to put him in the championship round with Apodaca.
With two strong matches behind him, Straeck was on a roll, and it was the culmination of a season of tolling in the practice room.
“Halfway through the season, it clicked,” Straeck said. “I wasn’t all that great before. It just clicked one day. I started figuring it out and using it.”
Figuring it out and using it, Straeck accomplished a dominant performance in the league finals.
“I just tried to go out there and put it all on the mat,” Straeck said.
Apodaca made the finals pinning Righetti’s Tommy Hornby after winning by forfeit in the first round of matches.
Straeck earned two points with a takedown, and Apodaca evened up the score. At the end of the first round, Straeck held a 4-2 lead. At the end of two, a 5-2 lead.
In the third round, Straeck dominated.
He started with a takedown for two points, then added another two points for a 9-2 lead with 1:20 left in the round.
Straeck landed a three-point nearfall for a 12-2 lead, and was gunning for another tech-fall. He tacked on another two points, pulling within a nearfall of a tech. He rode out the remaining seconds to earn the championship and a trip to the CIF Southern Section Northern Division Tournament.
“He pinned his first two guys with the same move in the first round,” Hazelhofer said. “This last kid, he was a couple points from tech-ing him. He pretty much dominated the 106 weight class, and I hope he can continue that next week [at CIF].”
Following the day’s matches, Straeck mentioned his mentor, former league champ and CIF Masters qualifier, Cruz Mendoza.
“I had coaching from Cruz Mendoza, a 106 wrestler who won league here,” Straeck said. “He helped me through this. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for him.”
Mendoza has been a mentor and assistant for the Greyhounds, and as a fellow 106-pound wrestler, focused with Straeck on his preparation.
“We were preparing him throughout the week,” Mendoza said. “We were working through little things trying to get his confidence up — some of the things I already knew he could do. That is what we have been working on, his confidence level and executing the moves that we practiced.”
Moving on to focus on the most fierce competition of the season, under the brightest lights, Straeck will face a win-or-go-home scenario, and will have it all on the line.
“I’m going to put it all in,” Straeck said. “You can’t really get better in the last week, but I’m going to stay conditioned and hopefully place at least fifth in CIF.”
Mendoza won through the CIF divisional tournament, and made the Masters in 2014, and has perspective for Straeck.
“It let him know that he is able to compete with people at a higher level,” Mendoza said. “I hope next week he can take that with him and knows that he can compete with top-level kids and he has a shot, and the goal is making it to state. There were some things today that were not as sharp or technical as we would like, but we are going to work on those, keep his confidence high, and keep him positive. The biggest thing I want him to know is have fun out there. If you are not having fun while doing it, it is not worth doing.”
In the 160s, PRHS junior Cade England dominated in two first-period pins to snag the 160-pound division championship.
Against Arroyo Grande’s Nicholas Johnson, England ferociously clobbered Johnson, who was clearly outmatched against the aggression from England.
Move after move, England positioned himself for the eventual pin. From the leg, to the back, to rolling Johnson onto his back for the pin.
AHS senior Logan Armstrong earned a trip to the finals in the 170-pound division, where he met with PRHS junior Hunter Deverick.
Armstrong’s first match was a hard-fought 3-1 decision against Pioneer Valley’s Arnulfo Alvarez.
Against Deverick, Armstrong employed his unconventional techniques to slip and turn reversals, keeping himself elusive and dangerous.
Armstrong and Deverick gridlocked in the first round, entangled but neither had a dominant position. The referee called for the wrestlers to restart in the center of the mat.
Deverick held a 2-0 lead at the time, with 1:00 left in the first period.
The evenly-matched wrestlers tussled and tangled into the second period, coming to a 3-3 tie with 1:00 left in the second.
Deverick finally got a hold worth pursuing, wrapping Armstrong’s neck and bringing him to the mat for a nearfall.
With :10 left in the second period, Deverick had levied his weight to force a pin to emerge as the PAC 8 League champ in the 170s.
Rocking a USA Wrestling tattoo on his right shoulder, Righetti’s Issaya Finley — ranked No. 8 in California in the 195-pound division, gave PRHS Ernie Trejo all he could handle in the 182-pound championship match. Trejo battled, giving it right back through the first two periods before getting pinned by the defending CIF divisional champion.
Trejo pinned Pioneer Valley’s Eddie Lucio in the final seconds of the second period, on the way to the championship round. Losing to Finley is something many wrestlers have become used to, but Trejo did not go down without a fight, and earned his runner-up medal the hard way.
Finley scored a pair of points in the first round on a takedown, and held a 2-0 lead into the second period. Trejo went on the attack in the second, and although did not score on the move, posted an impressive throw to score some fan points as he battled with one of the more daunting opponents in the gym.
Trailing in the match, 5-1, Trejo finally fell to Finley, getting rolled to his back and pinned.
AHS junior Arik Machado proved to be a force to be reckoned with in the PAC 8. On Saturday, he lost only to the eventual league champion and returning CIF divisional champion, Righetti’s Issaya Finley.
Machado pinned his first opponent, St. Joseph’s Marcelino Gonzalez, with a pin in :28. That win put him on the mat with Finley.
Finley pinned Machado in the first period, after 1:47.
Machado won his next match against Arroyo Grande’s Mason Garcia.
In the second round, Machado pinned Garcia to earn a trip to the third-place match, where he met Pioneer Valley’s Eddie Lucio.
Machado controlled the match against Lucio, taking a 5-2 lead into the third period, but it was still anyone’s match.
Lucio started the third period in the top position, and Machado escaped to earn a sixth point. He turned the momentum into a takedown, to grab an 8-2 lead before finishing Lucio off for an 8-4 win to earn a third-place medal.
On the 195 mat, PRHS John Cabral defeated Pioneer Valley’s Tony Murillo in dominant fashion.
He built a 5-1 lead through the first half of the second round, and added to the lead with another take down with :27 left in the second period.
Murillo scored a couple points to end the second period, but Cabral was back at it with a takedown to start the third, boosting his lead to 9-3.
As the two big bodies clashed and smashed each other around the mat, wearing each other out, and looking for the edge to finish the match, Cabral stayed comfortably on top, and tacked on a pair of points in the final seconds for an 11-4 decision to earn the PAC 8 League title in the 195s.
AHS junior Sammy DeRose earned third in the 195s with a pin of Righetti’s Jacob Coronado, in the second round.
DeRose lost his first match, getting pinned in the second round, but rebounded to win his final match.
DeRose managed a dominant position against Coronado, but failed to earn points in the first round. In the second round, he made up for it.
He earned two points in a takedown, and rolled Coronado onto his back and applied the weight. With teammates and his coach looking on, waiting for the pin call, the official referee crouched down for a closer look before slapping the mat definitively calling the match as a pin for DeRose.
PRHS heavyweight Juan Camacho pinned both his opponents to earn the 285-pound heavyweight title.
His first match pitted him with St. Joseph’s Dominic King, and the two behemoths clashed around the mat for almost the entire 6:00 through three rounds. In the final :12, Camacho finally ended the match with a stunning pin.
The win over King was an automatic trip to the finals, where Camacho faced Righetti’s heavyweight, Jacob Rothanzi.
Camacho and Rothanzi were closely matched, and when Camacho took a 2-0 lead in the third round, Rothanzi scored a point on an escape to elevate the intensity heading into the final 1:00.
Camacho got ahold of Rothanzi in the final 1:00, and rolled the big body over to his back — an uninviting place to be during a heavyweight match.
Taking a 4-1 lead, and running the clock to :07, Camacho sealed the victory with a pin and earned a championship as the PAC 8 League No. 1 285-pound heavyweight.
Coming away from the tournament, the Bearcats exceeded expectations in terms of sending wrestlers to CIF.
“You never know, but we were hoping to get around 10 guys through to CIF,” Acevedo said, “and we ended up with 11. That met our expectations, and more. Everyone wrestled well, and we only lost a couple matches we could have won, and we won some that we were not sure about.”
With league finals behind, the look one part at the recent tournament, and one part on the future. But the main things stay the main things.
“We are just talking fundamentals,” Acevedo said, “the things we have been trying to get them to understand all year. We are getting better because we are getting disciplined. It is little things that make a huge difference.”
Bringing 11 wrestlers into CIF, the hope is to send all of them to the CIF Masters, but the pool of talent deepens.
“You are hoping to get them all through, but we told them they all have to go in and believe and know they are prepared,” Acevedo said. “They have to wrestle hard and good things will happen. We have two to five guys who could make it [to Masters].”
Jumping into a match with a wrestler they have never faced presents a small margin for error, and a being in top shape mentally is key.
“If they go out and wrestle tentative or hesitant,” Acevedo said, “they will probably lose to the guy who is out there getting after it. You have to go in determined and ready to battle.”
Representing AHS in CIF will be Trevor Straeck (106), Trent Straeck (113), Isaac Keefer (126), Riley Mete (132), Cullen Cooper (138), Kyler Williams (152), Logan Armstrong (170), Arik Machado (182), Sammy DeRose (195), and Craig Zillig (285).
For Paso Robles — John Morones (113), Cori Southward (120), Dylan Maduena (126), Mike Domniguez (132), Julian Madrigal (145), Cade England (160), Hunter Deverick (170), Ernie Trejo (182), John Cabral (195), Roman Maciel (220), Juan Camacho (285).
The CIF track has just begun for the Bearcats and Greyhounds, and a few weeks left in the wrestling season will quickly conclude, but both communities look longterm at the sport of wrestling with youth programs to build the sport.