The Spartan faithful let out a roar of applause as La Cañada High wrestler Luke Sanborn lost his match, 10-7. It was a rare instance when an individual loss translated into a team win.
The first Rio Hondo League match of the season for both La Cañada and Monrovia Thursday ended in dramatic fashion, as the Spartans walked away with a one-point victory, 34-33.
Coming into the final match of the night, the Spartans had a 34-30 advantage, and Sanborn — one of their best wrestlers — was taking on Jimmy Bacus, who had moved up a weight class. The only way La Cañada wouldn't win the contest was if Bacus tied it with a major (good for eight points), or he pinned Sanborn.
To the shock of the La Cañada crowd, and delight of Monrovia, Sanborn was nearly pinned twice. Sanborn looked to be in control at first, as he threw Bacus to the mat, but Bacus reversed it, getting his opponent on his back and nearly pinning him a minute into the first period.
Sanborn managed to avoid being pinned and worked his way to his stomach. The drama kept building as he nearly pinned Bacus at the end of the first period, before nearly being pinned again himself in the second.
"I was freaking out," Spartan co-captain Christopher Bache said. "I was nervous because I knew [Bache] was going to reroll that throw in the beginning. I'm so glad [Sanborn] held on until the end, it was amazing."
Although the La Cañada fans were happy to walk away with a win, Sanborn wasn't pleased with his performance.
"I'm really upset, to be honest," Sanborn said. "I knew I could wrestle a better match but at the end of the day you just got to keep grinding because it's never over."
All the drama built up to the final match, but the tension grew throughout the entire night. Monrovia sacrificed 12 points against La Cañada, giving up two byes. But the Wildcats always had the match within reach. There were four lead changes and no team led by more than six.
"We tell the team to just keep fighting and the winning will take care of itself," La Cañada Coach Gavin Williams said. "Sure enough, we win by one point. If any of those guys gave up the match would've been lost."
Every match held significance. Bache won his match, 13-3, giving his team four points and cutting the Monrovia lead to 30-28. Christopher Soohoo came out with a 6-4 win in overtime, notching the first takedown against Marquise Harrison in the one-minute overtime period to give La Cañada a 31-30 edge.
"Soohoo wrestled on heart," Williams said. "He had no energy and a hurt knee, but all he did was wrestle on heart and if he hadn't it would have been a totally different story."
Patrick Kim looked to secure a win for the Spartans, as the referee signaled he had pinned Monrovia's Marquise Bias as the buzzer sounded. Upon further review, however, the official determined the call came after the buzzer. The decision gave the Spartans three points instead of six, and a 34-30 lead heading into the final match of the night, instead of 37-30 — which would have guaranteed a La Cañada victory.
John Atherton, coach of the Wildcats, wasn't surprised by the exciting finish.
"It happens like this all the time, for the last three years it's come down really close, to two or three points," Atherton said. "We usually dominate but we can't dominate every year."
Bache said the match will go down as a highlight of his athletic career.
"Monrovia has always been the toughest match for us every year, and to captain this year and beat them is exhilarating," he said.
Williams knows this signature win puts a target on his team's back heading into league.
"You can never take anyone for granted," Williams said. "Us being 1-0, we're the team to beat now and everyone else is going to be coming after us."