Coach Gavin Williams came into this season knowing it would take heart if his La Cañada High wrestling team was going to emerge as the 2011 Rio Hondo League champions.
That's exactly what Williams got from his athletes in a duel against South Pasadena on Tuesday with the league title on the line. The Spartans received some big performances, as they have all year long, and held off the Tigers for a 47-30 victory.
The win secured La Cañada's (3-0 in league) first Rio Hondo League championship in two years.
"This was the goal we set out for in the beginning of the season," said Luke Sanborn, who wrestles at 189 pounds for La Cañada. "After the win against Monrovia we focused on San Marino and South Pasadena, and we knew it was time to bring it."
Chris Skaggs, the Spartan's 103-pounder, started La Cañada out on the right foot — pinning South Pasadena's (1-2 in league) James Yun with 13 seconds left in the third period of their bout.
"I wanted to start off and get the win. I wanted to get the pin for sure and get everyone excited," Skaggs said.
Skaggs is only 92 pounds, meaning he's about 10 pounds lighter than everyone else he goes up against, Williams said.
"He battles, and he did a great job. He set the tone," Williams said. "Had we lost that match, who knows what would have happened? [South Pasadena's] confidence would have been way up."
The Spartans went on to win three of their first four matches to jump out to an early 18-6 lead. As always, it came down to who could keep their shoulders off the mat Tuesday, as 11 of the 14 matches ended with pins. Six La Cañada wrestlers pinned their opponents, two others won on points and another won on a forfeit.
La Cañada entered the 189-pound match between Sanborn and the Tigers' Andrew Park with a 35-24 lead. Sanborn knew a win would give the Spartans an insurmountable lead, and allow them to wrap up the Rio Hondo League crown, with only the 215-pound and heavyweight bouts left.
It looked like Sanborn would have to settle for a win off points with time expiring in the third period. However, he managed to get Park on his back though and settle his weight, getting a pin with just six seconds left in the match.
"Had [Sanborn] won on points we would've won anyway, but it's a whole lot more fun to win 47-30 instead of 38-36," Williams said.
Sanborn had just returned to practice Monday after sitting out the last three weeks with an infection. He'd dropped 10 pounds and was far from peak condition. However, after winning his mach, Sanborn said coming back was well worth the effort.
""I saw the varsity team win league my freshman year, but I wasn't a part of it. We came in second two years in a row after that, but it all makes this year that much better," Sanborn said.
The season isn't close to being over for the Spartans. They have qualified for the CIF Southern Section Division VI team playoffs as league champions. Berths in the CIF Southern Section individual playoffs will be determined at the Rio Hondo League finals Saturday at San Marino High School.