DOWNEY — Both the La Cañada and San Marino high wrestling teams came into the CIF Southern Section Division VI Dual Meet Wrestling Championships looking for wins, but both teams’ coaches knew there was value in just being there.
The Spartans advanced to the quarterfinal round of the tournament for the second year in a row, while the Titans, who fell in the first round, were happy to be there for the first time in roughly a decade.
“When you wrestle teams like this you never know where their strengths are and where your strengths are,” La Cañada Coach Gavin Williams said. “It just comes down to your guys going out there and battling.
“This is a learning experience we can use to get better and better. If we win we win, if we lose we lose, but we're going to go out there battling.”
La Cañada started strong with a 52-21 win over Downey Calvary Chapel in the first round, but had all it could handle in Nipomo, the second seed and Los Padres League champion, in the second round.
Nipomo slowed its matches down and waited for any openings that came its way and pulled out the 45-22 win behind five pins.
“A lot of teams stall to stay on top and it also brings the other team down because they feel like they can't do anything,” said Anthony Landero, a 120-pounder who was one of four Spartans to defeat his Nipomo opponent. “In the end, we lost but we had great matches.”
Marty Vardanian (184), Chris Skaggs (106) and Landero each picked up pins for La Cañada with Nick McMenamin (160) providing the Spartans' other win by major decision, 14-4.
La Cañada lost its first five matches to Nipomo, falling into a 21-0 hole, but was close to grabbing two wins via pin in the third and fourth matches.
The Spartans' Brian Streeter (138) seemed to have Nipomo's Dylan Hulsizer pinned late in the third round, but the referee stopped the action after Hulsizer was injured in Streeter's hold. Hulsizer held on the rest of the way with a lead to secure a 7-4 win, giving his team a 12-0 edge.
La Cañada's Kevin Stoner (145) had several near falls in his match, but just fell to Adam Chavarria by decision, 12-10, as Nipomo took a 15-0 lead.
“Maybe it goes the other way [if we get those pins], but they are a legit team, they are solid,” Williams said. “I will give them that.”
The Spartans advanced to the first round behind four Calvary forfeits and pins from Streeter, Stoner, Peter Garfield (220) and Guillermo Padilla (heavyweight).
“Forfeits or not, they're a tough team, but I think we would have won,” Williams said. “I kind of expected us to at least get out of the first round.”
San Marino was given a tall order when it squared off with Santa Paula, the tournament’s eighth seed and Tri-Valley League champion, while also forfeiting four matches for a total of 24 points as the Titans fell, 60-21.
“We are a young program and happy with how our season is going,” San Marino Coach Joe Gallardo said. “There have been some hiccups along the way, but we're improving.”
The Titans picked up three wins and a forfeit against Santa Paula. Andrew Barth (160) and Brian Chang (182) each pinned their opponents with three and 30 seconds left in the first period, respectively.
Killian Vendler, a junior, also picked up a hard-fought, 8-1, win for San Marino.
“I like contributing to this record-breaking year,” Vendler said. “It was fun winning it out there. It's been a really good season.”
Gallardo knew, win or lose, the CIF duals experience was yet another key step for his program.
“We haven't been in this tournament probably for a good 10 years,” he said. “We've come a long way and just being here is good for us.”
Barth, a senior, predicted there would be more in store for the Titans next season.
“Most of our team is sophomores, so this is a really good experience for next year,” Barth said. “We are definitely going to take a step up and a lot of guys will be ready to come back here next year. They're going to be ready and hungry for more.”