GLENDALE — The fight for the Rio Hondo League boys’ wrestling crown commenced Thursday at Hoover High, as the league opener pitted La Cañada against Hoover.
For the Tornadoes, they began the task of rebuilding, while the Spartans began their quest at winning a third straight league title.
La Cañada dropped its first match of the day before winning the last four to defeat depleted Hoover, 68-5, and begin on a high note.
Though the Spartans (15-2) already had an advantage with the Tornadoes’ (1-2) lack of depth on their roster, La Cañada coach Justin Luthey said the matches were a lot closer than the final score.
“We’re happy with how the guys wrestled and they really showed a lot of heart,” Luthey said. “The scoreboard shows a big deficit, but there were a lot of matches that were hard-fought and even if we got the pin, it was a pin in the third period, or something. I think we won with our conditioning. We won with our technique there.”
The lack of depth for Hoover resulted in eight forfeits and 48 points for La Cañada.
The forfeits went to La Cañada wrestlers Hayden Henderson (106 pounds), Chris Toomey Severino (120), Aram Behshid (126), Jackson Hamda (132), Daniel Park (138), Aidan Armaly (145), Jaitra Menon (160) and heavyweight Brandon Reece.
“We have to work on defending legs, defending the cradle and being more aggressive on the offense,” Hoover coach Dave Beard said. “That’s just something we just have to go back and work on.
“Like I told the kids, the biggest thing is how are we going to react after this? Are we going back and work harder or are we just going to give up? It’s all a learning experience.”
Despite the daunting task, Hoover’s 113-pound contender, Luis Socito, gave the Tornadoes a jump-start in league competition when he submitted La Cañada’s Sami Khanna with 12 seconds left in the first round of the first match.
Socito nearly pinned the senior at the minute mark of the first round and earned a take down early in the match before finally finding a chance to take the first victory for the Tornadoes.
“There’s this tilt that we [learned],” Socito said. “I only practiced it [once]. Thanks to my coach, Jessie, who helped me improve that in one practice … and I got to dominate it and perform well.”
Spartans sophomore Iman Behshid battled Hoover’s Darit Vardarian in the next match and pinned the Tornadoes wrestler a minute into the second round of the 152-pound bout.
La Cañada senior Will Henderson followed up with a victory in the 182-pound match against Hoover’s Andrew Shin. In a tightly contested match, Shin was able to fend off a number of take down attempts from Henderson and both posted reversals and two-point near-falls in the second round, but it was Henderson who came away with the win through decision.
“I knew coming in that it was going to be a tough match, and I knew that for a while now, so, in practice, I made sure to put in the extra effort because it really matters a lot to win, and I really enjoy it, and I really wanted to get that victory,” said Henderson, the 2016 Rio Hondo League champion in the 160-weight class. “I think, with our team, everyone puts in the extra effort in practice, and that’s what sets us apart.”
Spartans 195-pounder John Woodhouse posted a perfect, 16-0 match score against Hoover’s Andrew West. Dominant from start to finish, the 195-pound senior began the match with a take down of his Tornadoes counterpart and recorded three, three-point near-falls in the third round.
“A lot of it was just being able to think while you’re moving, not necessarily what you need to do right then, but you need to know, ‘if I have this arm, what am I going to do,’” Woodhouse said.
“We do a lot of stuff in practice where we just go live in certain situations and I really think it’s being able to know in that same situation that you practice and practice like 10 or 15 times and you then get in the match and it’s not you going ‘what do I do now?’ it’s ‘I’ve done this,’ one right after another.”