MONROVIA — With the top team decided Tuesday, it was time to determine the league's top wrestlers in the Rio Hondo League Finals at Monrovia High Saturday.
La Cañada, San Marino, South Pasadena and Monrovia's wrestlers battled through two matches to determine the best wrestler in each weight class and who'd earn a trip to the CIF Individual Tournament, with spots given to the top two wrestlers in each class.
The Spartans came out on top Saturday, as they did as a team in the league standings, with seven league champions and three second-place finishers.
"Seven league champs is always good and we have 10 going to CIF," La Cañada Coach Gavin Williams said. "I am proud of them, proud of all of them. It shows all the stuff we tell the guys about working hard. My guys just fight, that's all I ask them to do."
The Tigers, who finished third as a team in league, and Wildcats each had three league champs with South Pasadena sending four other wrestlers onto CIF with second-place finishes, including Charlie Barrone (132).
"I kind of envisioned this is how we would do," South Pasadena Coach Al Shuton said. "Overall, I am pretty content. I can't really complain, I am taking seven to CIF and most of my team is young."
San Marino senior Andrew Barth repeated as the 160-pound champ with a quick pin over South Pas' Zach Gershman.
"Both titles are just as sweet. Last year the other guy was the favorite and the senior," said Barth, who was top dog this year. "My guy was tough this year, but I came out ready and did what I needed to do."
It was a tough day for San Marino outside of Barth's dominance, as the Titans, who finished second in league, sent six wrestlers to the final round but only Barth had his hand raised in the end.
"We had some ups and downs today — some guys fell short of the expectations we had," San Marino Coach Joe Gallardo said. "I am not disappointed with them, but I think some of them realized this was a new pressure they never had to deal with before and they started doubting themselves. You can't doubt yourself because it's over at that point."
The Spartans' Daniel Wyatt earned his second straight league title at 113 pounds by pinning the Titans' Paul Krimmel early in the second period on a wild reversal after Krimmel scored a near fall to start the second.
"Our coaches have always taught us to stay calm and don't freak out [when you're on your back]," Wyatt said. "Every match is a different story, even though I've wrestled this guy before, I don't know what's going to happen. I just have to stay tough and wrestle safe."
Brian Streeter pinned South Pas' Derek Wang 68 seconds into the 138-pound match to give the Spartans their third title of the day after La Cañada's Anthony Landero won via pin at 120.
"It feels great because I have gotten second place the last three years since I was a freshman, so I really needed it this year," Streeter said.
Knowing fatigue would be a factor, La Cañada's Kevin Stoner pinned the Tigers' Albert Estrada with five seconds left in the first period of the 145 match after wrestling at 152 Tuesday and cutting 30 pounds since football season.
"I dropped weight, so I knew the longer I went the more tired I would be," said Stoner, who won his second straight league title. "A pin in the first is a lot easier than trying to get points in the third."
La Cañada's Marty Vardanian got some revenge on San Marino's Brian Chang, who pinned him Tuesday, in the 182-pound match. Chang nearly had two pins of his own until Vardanian notched the fall with 13 ticks left in the second period.
"It was drive," said Vardanian, explaining the key to the match. "If I had beat him Tuesday it may have been different, but I was determined because I didn't want to lose to the same guy twice."
Guillermo Padilla (heavyweight) and Gabe Villalobos (152) gave the Spartans their final two titles with pins over San Marino's Jonathan Yao and Daniel Walsh, respectively. La Cañada's Peter Garfield (220) and Christian Tichon (195) took second in their weights.
James Yun started strong in the 106-pound match for South Pas by picking up a technical fall, 16-0, over La Cañada's Chris Skaggs, who beat Yun (12-10) earlier in the year.
"I wanted payback [on Skaggs] so I just worked harder to beat him and it paid off," said Yun, who also had a completely different experience in league finals this year. "I got teched last year by another kid."
Sean Ehrlich gave the Tigers their second title of the day two matches later at 126 when he pinned the Titans' Thomas Krimmel with 1:05 left in the match.
As expected, South Pasadena's Ned Estrada took his title at 170 pounds for the third year in a row with a pin on Monrovia's Marquise Bias with 1:10 to go in the second period.
"It feels good, it feels really good. I am really happy with what I did and with my performance," said Estrada, who still has his eyes on a bigger prize. "I want to win Masters and take top three, that's my goal."