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SOUTHERN SECTION DIVISION I WRESTLING CHAMPIONSHIP : Indio Sends Off Coach, Stops El Modena

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

As expected, El Modena and Indio fought a closely contested battle for the Southern Section Division I-A dual-meet championship Thursday night that wasn’t decided until the final matches at El Modena High School.

But in reality, El Modena’s Vanguards (17-1) found themselves in big trouble much earlier in the middle weight categories as the Rajahs gave Coach John Rice, who is retiring after 17 seasons, a big send-off with a 28-20 victory for their second consecutive 1-A dual meet championship. Indio also captured the Division I individual team title Saturday.

Vanguard Coach Alan Clinton saw the red flags waving earlier, however, after his best wrestler, Southern Section champion Juan Alvarez, was beaten in a stunning 3-1 upset to Indio’s George Torres in the 132-pound division.

“It started getting away in the 132,” Clinton said. “It came down to the wire, but they beat us in our good spots--the 132, the 145 and the 162.”

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Alvarez, the MVP of the Division I individual championship, never established control over Torres, who finished fifth in Saturday’s individuals. Torres, a junior, took a 3-1 lead in the second period and maintained control through the third period.

Indio (18-1) also scored an upset in the 147-pound category when Brian Franco outscored Chris Jaime, 6-4. Jaime had beaten Franco, 7-4, in Saturday’s individual tournament.

Even more frustrating for the Vanguards was Ryan Hughes’ 4-2 overtime loss to Indio’s Jose Reyes in the 162-pound class. Two locked hands calls against Hughes, the second one with five seconds left in the match, deprived him of a 2-1 victory and sent the match into overtime where Reyes scored a takedown at 20 seconds.

The loss cut El Modena’s lead to 20-18, and Indio was able to sweep the final three matches on decisions.

El Modena got winning performances from Milo Ventimiglia, who scored a pin at 4:42 in the 105-pound class, Josh Wagner in the 114-pound class, Todd Cameron in the 137, David Wells in the 142 and Roger Martinez in the 154.

“This finishes my career,” Rice said. “The doctor told me two years ago to get out of stressful situations. After 17 years, it’s long enough. It was sure nice to get those three upsets.”


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