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Fountain Valley’s Justin Rodriguez, Zach Parker win titles at Five Counties

Fountain Valley's Zach Parker, right, wrestles in the 145-pound championship match during the Five Counties Tournament.
Fountain Valley’s Zach Parker, right, wrestles SLAM’s Kasius Graham in the 145-pound championship match during the Five Counties Tournament at Fountain Valley High School on Saturday.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

The Five Counties Tournament at Fountain Valley High School draws some of the best wrestling teams around.

If the tournament is to be viewed as a prelude to the CIF State wrestling championships, then the hosts should be quite happy with the results.

Behind two champions and a total of five finalists, the Barons finished third in the Five Counties Tournament on Saturday at Fountain Valley High School.

Justin Rodriguez (126 pounds) and Zach Parker (145) won their weight classes for Fountain Valley, which finished the event with 201.5 points.

Fountain Valley's Justin Rodriguez is all smiles after beating St. John Bosco's Grigor Cholakyan in the 126-pound final.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

Clovis Buchanan won the team title with 327 points, and Bellflower St. John Bosco was the runner-up with 214.5 points.

Rodriguez, a transfer from Palm Desert, was stingy in his final, defeating St. John Bosco’s Grigor Cholakyan by decision 7-0.

Five Counties marked just the second tournament for Rodriguez as a Baron, who said he also wrestled at the Doc. B Invitational in Clovis. Nevertheless, he has forged a bond with his teammates despite being limited in his ability to contribute until now.

“We’re grinding it out,” Rodriguez said. “I just love my teammates. We’re always pushing each other to the point that we want — to be state champs this year.”

Fountain Valley's Zach Parker receives his championship belt from his girlfriend, Elena Racer.
Fountain Valley’s Zach Parker receives his championship belt from his girlfriend, Elena Racer, after beating SLAM’s Kasius Graham in the 145-pound championship match during the Five Counties Tournament at Fountain Valley High School on Saturday.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

Parker defeated Henderson (Nev.) Sports Leadership and Management’s Kasius Graham 6-5 in the 145-pound final. The senior came out of the final looking like he had been through a battle with a cut under his right eye, but the reward at the end was unforgettable.

After denying Graham the reversal to flip the match over the final 12 seconds, he came to his feet, had his arm raised in victory by the referee, and then had a championship belt put around his waist by his girlfriend Elena Racer, who kissed him as she did so.

“My girl was out there,” Parker said. “I told her, ‘I’m about to win Five Counties. Come give me a belt.’”

Parker shared his thoughts on trying to navigate the closing seconds of the third period with a one-point lead.

Fountain Valley's TJ McDonnell, top, wrestles Buchanan's Joseph Martin in the 182-pound championship final.
Fountain Valley’s TJ McDonnell, top, wrestles Buchanan’s Joseph Martin in the 182-pound championship match during the Five Counties Tournament at Fountain Valley High School on Saturday.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

“I knew that ref didn’t want to see me win, so I had to keep on moving so he wouldn’t call a stall. If he would have gotten to his feet, I would have dropped to a single [leg]. I knew he wasn’t going to get out because I really wanted that.”

Fountain Valley also had Sean Solis (132), TJ McDonnell (182) and Ryland Whitworth (195) reach the championship bout of their respective weight classes.

Fountain Valley's Sean Solis, right, wrestles Buchanan's Jack Gioffre in the 132-pound championship final.
Fountain Valley’s Sean Solis, right, wrestles Buchanan’s Jack Gioffre in the 132-pound championship match during the Five Counties Tournament at Fountain Valley High School on Saturday.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

Buchanan’s Jack Gioffre, who is undefeated at 27-0 this season, beat Solis by decision 7-1. Gioffre was named the lower-weight MVP of the tournament.

Buchanan’s Joseph Martin, also unbeaten at 26-0, edged McDonnell 5-1.

Gilroy’s Cody Merrill, sporting a record of 19-0 this season, scored a major decision against Whitworth by a count of 13-2. Merrill was named the upper-weight MVP of the tournament.

Corona del Mar tied with Hesperia for 26th place with 59.5 points. Marina was 38th with 39.5 points. Estancia (49th, 26 points), Newport Harbor (57th, 18 points), Costa Mesa (62nd, 16 points) and Edison (73rd, seven points) also competed at the tournament.

Fountain Valley's Ryland Whitworth, right, wrestles Gilroy's Cody Merrill in the 195-pound championship final.
Fountain Valley’s Ryland Whitworth, right, wrestles Gilroy’s Cody Merrill in the 195-pound championship match during the Five Counties Tournament at Fountain Valley High School on Saturday.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

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