It had not been tradition for the Fountain Valley High wrestling team to partake in the CIF Southern Section Dual Meet championships.
Former head coach Brad Woodbury had considered the tournament a potential bump in the road to good health for the individual CIF postseason.
Dennis Piramo, the Barons’ new head coach, marched his team into Lakewood High, hopeful that it would be able to make a run at the Division 3 title.
While they did not come away with the championship, the Barons gained more valuable experience before the do-or-die stage of the season begins.
Second-seeded Fountain Valley suffered a heartbreaking defeat to third-seeded Riverside Hillcrest 33-32 on Saturday in the semifinals of the CIF Duals.
Kade Ayres (106 and 113 pounds), Zachary Parker (120), Luis Ramirez (145), Max Wilner (160) and Nico Damschen (182) went undefeated across the Barons’ three dual meets.
“We have a lot of good young talent on the team, and they really showed up for us with the pins,” Damschen, a senior, said. “That was a big part of us catching up [to Hillcrest], but we gave up a couple of pins that we couldn’t afford.”
River Valley League champion Hillcrest (8-1) earned pins in the first two bouts of the semifinals to take a 12-0 lead. The Barons spent the next 11 matches trying to catch up.
Surf League champion Fountain Valley (12-2) had closed the gap to 21-17, when heavyweight Christian Zeglinski found himself in a winning position. He was up by three points late in the final period, but Roberto Salazar managed to secure a takedown and turn Zeglinski on his back for a pin in the final 10 seconds.
Salazar simply said that the emotions of the win left him speechless.
The Barons rallied from a 27-17 deficit in short order. Ayres secured a decision. Then Sean Solis and Parker recorded first-period pins to lift Fountain Valley into a 32-27 lead.
Hillcrest could only win the dual meet with a pin in the final match, and Airrean Audoma was able to deliver for the Trojans. He pinned Thanh Tu with four seconds remaining in the first period, giving Hillcrest the one-point win.
“I stopped wrestling for the win,” Audoma said of the risks he took. “I wrestled for the pin. I didn’t want to win with seven points, eight points or nine points. I needed a pin.
“If I gave up two, three or four [points], it didn’t matter, as long as I got the pin.”
Asked what he thought about Salazar’s tide-turning pin, Audoma added, “It made me feel like anything is possible. He turned it around in 10 seconds. If he lost, we thought we lost.”
Fountain Valley made quick work of host Lakewood in the opening round, winning the dual meet 72-6. The Barons then defeated West Hills Chaminade 60-22 in the quarterfinals.
After winning their eighth consecutive league crown this season, the Barons will turn their attention to the Sunset Conference finals next Saturday. The Surf League and the Wave League reorganized into an eight-team conference to allow the top four finishers in each weight class to qualify for CIF.
Piramo said that he was frustrated as a competitor by the semifinals defeat, but he added that the way the match swung at a moment’s notice was why he loves sports.
“The positive is that we have another shot to possibly win [CIF] Individuals, as long as we qualify the guys that we need to qualify,” Piramo said. “The goal next week is to qualify 14 [wrestlers]. After that, we score as many points as we can.”