The Sunset Conference wrestling finals set the stage for champions to defend their crowns and new stars to be born.
Wrestlers piled into a packed gym at Corona del Mar High on Saturday, each hoping to extend their season into the CIF Southern Section individual wrestling championships.
Many of the competitors cut weight for what they hope will result in a deep run, one which began with getting through the league finals meet. With eight teams in the conference, the top four in each weight class were able to qualify.
Fountain Valley qualified 12 wrestlers with two alternates, giving the Barons an army that will be looking to repeat as CIF champions after the team won the Northern Division title last year.
Mikey Folch, Zach Parker, TJ McDonnell, Luis Ramirez and Max Wilner won individual league titles for Fountain Valley.
Wilner, who had wrestled at 170 pounds all season, will compete at 160 pounds in the postseason. The junior won the third league title of his career, producing five takedowns of Huntington Beach’s Kolby Lane before ending the match with a pin late in the first period.
Ramirez, a junior 145-pounder, and Parker, a sophomore 132-pounder, each earned their second league championships individually.
Parker said that he had not wrestled for two and a half months after suffering a torn LCL and a fractured right knee cap. The league finals meet marked the first time that he had wrestled all season.
Folch (120) and McDonnell (138) are both freshmen. The former had to wrestle teammate Kade Ayres for the right to wrestle in their weight class and won.
“I wrestled my friend off, and I felt really bad when I had to wrestle him off, but it’s just the sport,” Folch said. “I had to do what I had to do, but at the end of the day, we’re still best friends, and I love him.”
Ayres moved up to 126 pounds as a result. He won a thrilling match over Newport Harbor’s Jack Jones in the blood round, advancing to the consolation final with a pin in the final seconds. The win punched his ticket into CIF.
Marina’s Mike McCoy (126) completed the career league championship, winning an individual league title in all four years. He beat CdM’s Luke Villaluz by a 6-4 decision.
“I’m really excited about it,” McCoy said. “It’s always a pleasure winning league, and I’m just ready for CIF and what’s coming up.”
McCoy took third place at 120 pounds in the Northern Division finals last season, his best finish in CIF to date. He said he would like to better that.
The Vikings had two other finalists in Jared Causse (170) and Ryan Escamilla (195).
Edison senior Jacob Iida (152) held the distinction of Masters Meet qualifier last season, but prior to Saturday, he had yet to win a league title. That changed when he pinned CdM’s Deegan Montalbano in the second period.
That Iida could advance to the Masters Meet before winning a league title demonstrates the strength of the Sunset Conference. Once the postseason arrives, Iida said that every team within the conference will be pulling for each other.
“That really does happen,” Iida said of rivals becoming friends. “You start practicing with other schools, and we all as a conference come together. After league, we’re a team as a conference.”
In the upper-weight divisions, the host school made its mark. Juniors Danny Reichner (182) and Emilio Franco (220) took home individual crowns.
Reichner had spent all of his energy in beating Huntington Beach’s Tyson Finch by an 8-4 decision.
“I’m really strong in the first and second period,” Reichner said. “I try to get all of my pins in the first or second period. That third period, I just gas out so easy. He was a good opponent. He was not coming down in the third period at all.
“This is my first year winning league champ, so I’m pretty psyched.”
Newport Harbor had two finalists in Kai Villasenor (106) and Giovanni Sabatasso (120).
Huntington Beach had William Krcelic (132) join Lane and Finch as the runner-up in their respective weight classes.
Sunset Conference wrestling finals
Top four qualify for CIF Individuals
106 – Lucas Gurule (LA) dec. Kai Villasenor (NH), 4-2.
113 – Conor Uyekawa (LA) pins Sean Solis (FV), 2:35.
120 – Mikey Folch (FV) pins Giovanni Sabatasso (NH), 1:24.
126 – Mike McCoy (M) dec. Luke Villaluz (CdM), 6-4.
132 – Zach Parker (FV) dec. William Krcelic (HB), 9-2.
138 – TJ McDonnell (FV) inj. def. Isaiah Seals (E).
145 – Luis Ramirez (FV) maj. Nico Gagnon (E), 19-3.
152 – Jacob Iida (E) pins Deegan Montalbano (CdM), 3:16.
160 – Max Wilner (FV) pins Kolby Lane (HB), 1:39.
170 – Armando Sandoval (LA) dec. Jared Causse (M), 7-2.
182 – Danny Reichner (CdM) dec. Tyson Finch (HB), 8-4.
195 – Judah Tule (LA) dec. Ryan Escamilla (M), 9-6.
220 – Emilio Franco (CdM) pins Matthew Fee (FV), 0:54.
285 – Anthony Davalos (LA) pins Max Tommey (FV), 2:53.
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