LA CAÑADA — For a while, defense of the Rio Hondo League wrestling crown appeared very shaky for La Cañada High.
The Spartans kicked off the league season Thursday afternoon and twice fell behind by 24 points before rallying for 42 consecutive points thanks to several forfeits to defeat San Marino, 48-30, in a meeting of league heavyweights.
The victory was the sixth straight for the Spartans (7-1) in league action, but marked only the second time in the five-year coaching stint of Justin Luthey that La Cañada topped San Marino.
Over the last five seasons, the Spartans are 2-3 versus the Titans and 14-1 against all other league foes.
“We never take San Marino lightly because we know that they’re strong in several weight classes,” La Cañada coach Justin Luthey said. “For us, we didn’t start off well, but we fought off some pins that turned into some valuable points later and then made our move in the upper weights.”
San Marino (0-1) entered with a big disadvantage as the Titans only had wrestlers available for nine of 14 weight classes, meaning they gave La Cañada five forfeit victories and 30 points.
Even so, the Titans roared to a 30-6 lead after San Marino’s Bean Perez pinned La Cañada junior Tyler Perez at 145 pounds.
Down by 24 points at the midway point, the Spartans picked up one of those forfeit victories for senior 152-pounder David Sarkisian to climb within 30-12 and kick-start a 42-0 run.
Sarkisian’s triumph was followed by an actual victory on the mat as Spartans junior William Henderson pinned San Marino’s Daniel Manolescu at 160 pounds in 3:20 to close the deficit to 30-18.
“It’s great to open with a win against a really good San Marino team,” Henderson said. “It was a slow start, but we came back.”
La Cañada tri-captain Ben Donoho added to his team’s spurt by recording a fall in 1:35 at 170 pounds over San Marino’s Bill Chen to bring the Spartans within 30-24.
“We didn’t do as well as we should have early on, but we didn’t panic,” Donoho said. “We kept fighting.”
There was no dramatic tying or go-ahead victory for the Spartans, who received 12 points and leaped ahead, 36-30, via forfeit victories for Lyndon Forest and Johnny Vasily at 182 and 195 pounds, respectively.
The last real match resulted in a pin from senior tri-captain Colman Trulik at 220 pounds in 43 seconds over San Marino’s Gary Schwarz that secured the triumph as the Spartans vaulted ahead, 42-30.
La Cañada’s final triumph came on the last of the five forfeits as heavyweight Griffin Dilbeck was awarded six points.
The sequence at the match’s end differed somewhat from the beginning as San Marino opened with pins from Sean Han (106 pounds) and Joshua Trumbull (113 pounds) to lead, 12-0.
In the match of the day, San Marino’s Nigel Araniber landed a takedown with 12.5 seconds left to tie La Cañada’s Mason Littell at 8 at the end of regulation. Araniber secured another takedown in sudden-death overtime for a 10-8 win a Titans’ 15-0 lead.
La Cañada eventually fell behind 24-0 and registered its only win through the lower weights on a forfeit victory for 138-pounder Brandon Abboud.