While it may have been his first appearance in the CIF Southern Section Eastern Division Individual Championships, Arthur Ghukasyan proved he belonged at the elite tournament Friday and Saturday.
Hoover High's 145-pound wrestler fell two points shy of the fifth-place match and a potential trip to the CIF Southern Section Masters Meet when he was edged by Victor Valley's Logan Howell, 4-3, Saturday.
The junior needed three wins in the second day of the elite tournament at Oak Hills High to secure a top-five spot and trip to Masters, but fell just short. Ghukasyan started the day with a pinfall victory of Rialto's Javier DeLaCruz in his first bout in the consolation bracket.
Ghukasyan's Masters mission just fell short when he gave up a reversal and takedown, while managing a takedown and escape himself against Howell.
“It was a tight match that could have went either way,” said Hoover Coach Mark Bitetti, adding Howell stalled a bit after taking the narrow lead. “Arthur was the aggressor the whole match. The guy didn't try to do a whole lot.”
Gio Martinez, the Tornadoes’ 220-pound Rio Hondo League champion, saw his aspirations of advancing come to an end Saturday when he was pinned by Antelope Valley's Daniel Newman. It was Martinez' third match in the consolation bracket and first bout of the day.
Martinez put himself in a bit of a hole Friday, losing his first match at the tournament when he was pinned by Serrano's J Mendoza just over a minute into the match. The senior moved on to day two of the event with pinfall victories over Don Lugo's Randy Chavez and Quartz Hill's Palmer Dakota.
“I am very proud of the way they wrestled,” Bitetti said of second-year wrestlers Ghukasyan and Martinez. “We are just learning this sport; there is not a lot of wrestling background here. We are just going to build from here.”
While only three Hoover wrestlers competed at the Eastern Division tournament, Bitetti brought along a number of other wrestlers to witness the event.
“Their eyes were wide open and they took it all in,” said Bitteti, who leads the second year program. “It was fun, it was a bonding experience for all of us. They know they've got to work hard now, and they saw some really good wrestling.”
Ghukasyan had a tremendous start to CIF Individuals, as he pinned Palmdale’s Jose Molina and knocked off Silverado's Joseph Romero, 6-1, to start the tournament Friday. The junior fought valiantly, but was pinned in the third period of his match with top-seeded Steele Escobedo of Fountain Valley, which dropped him into the consolation bracket for Saturday.
While the end to the season may have been a disappointing one for Ghukasyan, Bitetti believes it could fuel him for his senior year.
“We certainly hope so,” Bitetti said. “We start in the weight room on Tuesday. We'll be hitting the weights hard and wrestling once or twice a week.”