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Late surge by Western denies CdM wrestling in CIF Division 6 final

Corona del Mar High head coach Mark Alex accepts the runner-up plaque for his team.
Corona del Mar High head coach Mark Alex accepts the runner-up plaque for his team at the CIF Southern Section Division 6 dual meet wrestling championships final at Western High School in Anaheim on Saturday.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

When the Corona del Mar High School wrestling team broke through to win the CIF Southern Section Division 6 championship last season, it was a Cinderella story for the Sea Kings.

The quest to repeat is often considered the tougher of two deep playoff runs for that reason. The Sea Kings did not fly under the radar as a relative unknown this time, facing a drama-filled semifinal against Thousand Oaks en route to arriving at their second consecutive final.

Defending champion CdM found itself in a position to win with four weight classes to go on Saturday, but top-seeded Western ran the table in the remaining matches.

Western beat CdM 40-21 in the Division 6 final of the CIF Southern Section dual meet wrestling championships, and the Pioneers will be hanging their first CIF championship banner in the sport since 2007.

Angel Medel-Leon clinched the title for the Pioneers (18-0) with a pin in the 126-pound match. It came against J.J. Strapp, who had played the role of the hero in CdM’s 39-38 victory over Thousands Oaks in the semifinals.

“The coaches told me right away, ‘Angel, you just have to win,’ but I wasn’t going to settle for just a win,” Medel-Leon said. “I was going to pin. It was my last match ever, so when I came out, I felt the adrenaline.”

Corona del Mar's Zion Hernandez, top, wrestles Western's Isaiah Mota during the 145-pound match in the CIF Division 6 final.
Corona del Mar’s Zion Hernandez, top, competes against Western’s Isaiah Mota during the 145-pound match.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

Corona del Mar jumped out to a 9-0 advantage on the strength of a pin by Luke Villaluz (138) to open the dual meet and a victory by decision from Zion Hernandez (145).

Western rattled off decisions in the next three matches — from Sergio Vazquez (152), Christopher Mercado (160) and Christopher Zuniga (170) to knot the score at 9-9.

The Pioneers eventually took a 19-12 lead on a victory by fall from Gerardo Orozco at 220 pounds, but the Sea Kings struck back with their state qualifier in Cal Baptist-bound Emilio Franco, who recorded a pin in the heavyweight division.

Angelo Gonzalez then gave CdM the lead at 21-19 with a victory by decision over Paulino Lazaro-Lopez, but the momentum seemed to turn within that match.

Lazaro-Lopez was able to keep his shoulders off the mat at the end of the second period. With an escape in the third round, he turned what could have been a pin into a loss by decision, preventing the Sea Kings from opening a multi-bout advantage.

“He’s a freshman, and he’s tough,” Western coach Jaime Flores said. “He’s gotten beaten up by our 113-pounder all year, and you can see it, when he’s not wrestling that kid, he’s tough.

“Coach [Robert] Elias has been preaching to our kids, and Coach [Danny] Melendez, ‘Stay off your back. If we don’t get pinned, we win the championships, and essentially, we gave up two pins and got four or five, and that was the difference in the match.”

Corona del Mar's Luke Villaluz, left, wrestles Western's Abram Marmolejo in the 138-pound match in the CIF Division 6 final.
Corona del Mar’s Luke Villaluz, left, competes against Western’s Abram Marmolejo during the 138-pound match.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

The other pins for the Pioneers came from Eduardo Medel (113) and Isaiah Holguin (132).

Corona del Mar (8-2), the Wave League champion, continues to build a program. The Sea Kings had eight underclassmen in their starting lineup for the final.

“The seniors push them and get them to the next level,” CdM coach Mark Alex said. “It’s nice that it keeps paying forward year to year as the kids get older, but without good seniors working hard, showing the other kids, ‘This is what it takes,’ they don’t know.”

Franco said he feels that a good work ethic is “contagious,” and he talked about serving in that role with his sparring partner Dylan Wood, who won by decision in the 182-pound match.

“We both have a big heart to not lose, to work as hard as top wrestlers,” Franco said. “I think that’s what pretty much turned the program around.”

Corona del Mar's Dylan Wood, left, drops Western's Juan Orozco-Garcia to the mat during the 182-pound match on Saturday.
Corona del Mar’s Dylan Wood, left, drops Western’s Juan Orozco-Garcia to the mat during the 182-pound match.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

CIF Southern Section Division 6 Dual Meet Wrestling Championships

Championship Match

Western 40, Corona del Mar 21

106 – Angelo Gonzalez (CdM) dec. Paulino Lazaro-Lopez (W), 11-4.

113 – Eduardo Medel (W) pins James Baldwin (CdM), 1:17.

120 – Angel Hernandez-Martinez (W) dec. Brendan Muse (CdM), 3-0.

126 – Angel Medel-Leon (W) pins J.J. Strapp (CdM), 1:50.

132 – Isaiah Holguin (W) pins Chase Bergstrom (CdM), 5:00.

138 – Luke Villaluz (CdM) pins Abram Marmolejo (W), 3:15.

145 – Zion Hernandez (CdM) dec. Isaiah Mota (W), 7-2.

152 – Sergio Vazquez (W) dec. Antonio Aramburu (CdM), 5-3.

160 – Christopher Mercado (W) dec. James Tobin (CdM), 10-3.

170 – Christopher Zuniga (W) dec. Anthony Gonzalez (CdM), 4-3.

182 – Dylan Wood (CdM) dec. Juan Orozco-Garcia (W), 3-1.

195 – Jonathan Aviles (W) maj. Omid Asadi (CdM), 27-17.

220 – Gerardo Orozco (W) pins Trent Merriman (CdM), 3:00.

285 – Emilio Franco (CdM) pins Michael Horta-Aviles (W), 3:47.

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