Back Bay rivals Corona del Mar High and Newport Harbor were engaged in a riveting wrestling dual meet to decide the Newport-Mesa District championships late on Wednesday night when a plot twist occurred.
Going into the penultimate match, the Sea Kings trailed by a single point. Brendan Muse took to the mat, knowing that he could not be pinned by one of the Sailors’ top wrestlers in Kai Villasenor.
Muse averted disaster while on his back near the boundary late in the second period. Villasenor won the match by major decision, but Newport Harbor’s lead stood at five points going into the final bout.
Out came freshman JJ Strapp for CdM, who was wrestling for injured teammate Eric Rector. If Strapp could pin Caleb Wheeler in the 113-pound match, the Sea Kings would win.
The rivals were in full throat, chanting the names of their competing teammates with the district title on the line.
Strapp won by fall in the second period, sending CdM to a 41-40 victory over Newport Harbor. Strapp instantly became a hero in the eyes of his teammates, who raised him into the air following the match.
The Sea Kings swept the Newport-Mesa District event, beating Costa Mesa 60-24 and Estancia 67-6. Newport Harbor took second at 2-1, the Mustangs were third at 1-2 and the Eagles went 0-3.
“I’m a freshman, so this is my first year,” Strapp said. “I’m just so thankful for everyone, for my teammates and all of my friends. It feels great. It’s such an honor.”
Sea Kings coach Mark Alex lauded the effort of Muse to extend the match.
“It was crazy,” Alex said. “Brendan was in a headlock. Brendan is very crafty getting out of holes. It’s amazing how he doesn’t get pinned.”
Newport Harbor may have lost the district championship, but the Sailors are still the owners of the Golden Singlet, which is awarded to the winner of the Wave League dual meet between Newport Harbor and CdM this season. Although the Sailors had some key losses to their lineup due to graduation, Villasenor believes that Newport Harbor will still be up to the task.
“Austin [Osumi] and Miguel [Licona] were both hammers, but seeing the way that the team is forming through the first two months of practice, people falling into the right varsity spots, I’m looking forward to seeing how we do as a team this season,” Villasenor said.
Sea Kings senior Yosi Haim-Sarvey won all three of his matches at 132 pounds, including a 10-9 decision against Estancia’s Trevor Wagstaff. Haim-Sarvey trailed 8-4 heading into the third period.
“I might have been down in points, but at any point in the match, I didn’t feel like I was losing,” Haim-Sarvey said. “I gave up some points I shouldn’t have, but I felt in control most of the time.”
Costa Mesa junior Breanne Raya, a transfer from Huntington Beach, recently returned from an ACL injury that kept her out last season. The 170-pounder wrestled up at 195 pounds, and the crowd roared its approval when she executed a Greco Roman arm-and-shoulder throw for a takedown against Newport Harbor’s Max Hernandez.
Hernandez escaped the initial offensive, and he ultimately won the match by fall with seven seconds remaining in the opening period.
The Mustangs concluded the night with their first win in a dual meet this season, defeating rival Estancia 48-24. Cameron Glabb (120), Cristopher Rosales Ramirez (145) and Hunter Windshitl (285) earned pins for Costa Mesa.
Ramirez pinned all three of his opponents, a sign that he is capable of sustaining a high level of performance.
“It’s a good way to see where you are in the middle of the season, between tournaments,” Ramirez said. “I think it’s always good to have that pressure on you, when your entire team is there watching you, just to get a feeling for a tournament when hundreds of people are watching you.”
Fourth-year Eagles coach Abraham Aguilar has high hopes for junior 195-pound wrestler Jacob Potts, who remained undefeated on the season in winning his lone match that went on the mat.
Potts has also won titles in the Costa Mesa Classic and the Scott Davis Invitational at Mater Dei this season.
“I expect him to, if his mind is right, he can go all the way to state,” Aguilar said. “That’s what we’ve been envisioning ever since last year, the CIF semis. That’s what our goal has been.
“That’s what I feel. I expect him to make it to state and make a good run.”
Costa Mesa will host Estancia in the Battle for the Bell match in Orange Coast League competition on Dec. 18. The match will be part of a quad meet that includes Santa Ana and Santiago.
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