All the bells and whistles were brought out for the Sunset League title bout.
A packed house shrouded in darkness, eyes glued to the only light in the room that overlooked a blue mat with a white circle. Everyone knew what was about to happen – a battle.
As the challenger, host Marina High pulled out all the stops to try to end the reign of Fountain Valley, but in the face of tremendous pressure, the Barons were not to be denied.
George Sykes and Phillip Cardoza delivered key late victories, and Fountain Valley captured its sixth consecutive league championship on Tuesday night at Marina High.
"Honestly, we earned it," Sykes said. "Like Coach [Brad Woodbury] said before we started all this, 'No one works harder than us.'"
"We went through hell to try to get to this point, and we just felt like we deserved it, so we went out and got it."
The league crown came down to the final three matches. Marina's William Emery had just secured a critical overtime victory over Jacob Taub in the 182s, cutting Fountain Valley's lead to 26-20.
Sykes drew the next assignment, desperately needing to break the Vikings' momentum. He trailed Tyler Skidmore, 2-1, going into the third period, but he scored the only takedown of the round to send his match into an extra session.
It took 43 seconds into the one-minute overtime to score the decisive takedown, setting the stage for Fountain Valley to clinch the championship with one win in the final two matches.
Cardoza followed Sykes, opposing Ricardo Alcala in the 220s. Alcala led by one point after the first and second periods, but Cardoza broke free from the initial set to earn a one-point escape for the tie.
Later in the third, he scored a takedown. Alcala was only able to break free with six seconds left, and his last-second, diving attempt at a takedown was unsuccessful.
By the slimmest of margins, Cardoza had just clinched the Sunset League title for Fountain Valley. His teammates erupted with excitement on the bench following his 9-8 decision.
"Oh, I totally was," said Cardoza when asked if a hot start by Marina had him worried. "After the first matches, they were starting to go up, and I was like, 'Shoot, this one is going to come down to the wire.'"
"Right after George's match, I knew that it was going to come down to me. Coach told me that, and I just had to push through and win."
Woodbury was not surprised that his team was made to sweat it out.
"It's tough," he said. "We wanted six in a row, and everyone wants to stop us. I knew that they were going to pack the gym, and they were going to do their best to beat us."
The Vikings never made it comfortable for the Barons. Mike McCoy (106s), Joshua Herrera (120s), Timothy Mizukami (126s), and John McCoy (138s) combined to win four of the first six bouts for Marina, which took a 17-6 lead at that point.
"I was very confident," Vikings Coach Chris Rasmussen said. "The team was very confident going in. We were very happy with the performance of 90% of the team. Fountain Valley just came in, and they wanted it more today."
"Today was a great day for wrestling. Fountain Valley and Marina High School, we plan to be in the battle every year. It's a great rivalry."
Fountain Valley came storming back with consecutive pins by Karson Ayres (145s) and Trenton Ching (152s). Those wins were part of a four-match winning streak for the Barons. It ended with a victory by technical fall for Merrick O'Donnell, sending the Fountain Valley lead to 26-17.
Despite winning the league, Fountain Valley will not participate in the CIF-SS Dual Meet Championships this Saturday. Woodbury prefers to keep his team as healthy as possible for the CIF Individual meets.
"We're not going," he said. "I choose not to go because I've had kids get hurt."
The Barons' replacement will be determined by an advisory board meeting on Wednesday.
Fountain Valley 32, Marina 26
106 – Mike McCoy (Mar) maj. John Chandler (FV), 13-0.
113 – Bryce Nozaki (FV) dec. John Finney (Mar), 10-6.
120 – Joshua Herrera (Mar) pins Julian Bayless (FV), 1:39.
126 – Timothy Mizukami (Mar) dec. Jack O'Donnell (FV), 11-10.
132 – Christian Hernandez (FV) dec. Luke Glover (Mar), 5-1.
138 – John McCoy (Mar) maj. Chanson Ching (FV), 10-0.
145 – Karson Ayres (FV) pins Jesus Ortiz (Mar), 0:29.
152 – Trenton Ching (FV) pins Tyler Jeffries (Mar), 3:57.
160 – Jerry Rosales (FV) dec. Ruddy Mendez (Mar), 7-3.
170 – Merrick O'Donnell (FV) tech. fall Wyatt Been (Mar), 22-6.
182 – William Emery (Mar) dec. Jacob Taub (FV), 6-4 F/OT.
195 – George Sykes (FV) dec. Tyler Skidmore (Mar), 5-3 F/OT.
220 – Phillip Cardoza (FV) dec. Ricardo Alcala (Mar), 9-8.
285 – Daniel Escamilla (Mar) pins Corey Huynh (FV), 1:42.