La Cañada High wrestling opens league with win versus Hoover

LA CAÑADA — Win No. 1 in the era of La Cañada High wrestling Coach Justin Luthey came at the expense of loss No. 1 in the tenure of Hoover High’s Dave Beard.

The area’s only two wrestling programs opened Rio Hondo League competition Tuesday afternoon with the knowledge that both would be back in action within 48 hours.

Perhaps then it was the host Spartans who best took advantage of the circumstances, defeating the short-handed Tornadoes, 58-21.

“I’m not really as happy with this win as you’d think by the score. There are some things that we could have done better,” Luthey said. “We have to wrestle a lot better, but the team got its jitters out of the way and reacted positively to the home crowd, so that’s good.”

La Cañada (1-0) has a mammoth home match with CIF Southern Section Division VI fourth-ranked San Marino, the league’s defending champion, at 4:30 p.m. on Thursday.

The Titans defeated the Spartans, 54-27, in last year’s league opener en route to winning a league championship and snapping La Cañada’s two-year reign.

If the Spartans are to retake the crown, perhaps Luthey is correct in his team’s assessment.

Hoover (3-1) forfeited bouts at 106, 120, 126, 182 and 285 pounds in surrendering 30 points in what might otherwise have been a close match.

Those free points helped the Spartans roll out to a big advantage.

After a pin from Hoover’s David Balakeseryan at 2:33 in the first period of the 113-pound bout knotted the score at 6, the Spartans scored the next 28 points in taking a stranglehold versus the Tornadoes.

The first 12 points of that run came via forfeits at 120 and 126 pounds, which were followed by falls from Spartans sophomore Elias Figueroa (132 pounds) in the second period and from junior Rodrigo Torres (138), also in the second period.

La Cañada’s two pins were followed by the match’s first decision, a 13-5 major win for Spartans sophomore Ryan Breneman over Hoover’s Jessie Martinez at 145 pounds in one of the day’s marquee bouts.

“This was our first dual meet of the season, so you’re never exactly sure what to expect,” Luthey said. “It was nice to get that run.”

Down, 34-6, the Tornadoes battled back, first by snapping Hoover’s 28-0 spurt with a thrilling 4-3 victory from 152-pounder Geraldy Martinez over La Cañada’s Christopher Harb, who scored the lone point in the third period due to an escape.

That win came before back-to-back pins, beginning with a first-round fall from Hoover’s Davit Nersiyan (160) that preceded a second-round pin from Arthur Ghukasyan at 170 pounds, which brought surging Hoover within 34-21.

Despite gaining momentum, the Tornadoes were out of gas, as the team forfeited the 182-pound weight class, which clinched the win for La Cañada, 40-21.

The Spartans landed two more pins from 195-pounder Alex Bache and 220-pounder Christian Tichon, while picking up a final forfeit in the heavyweight division to seal the match.

“I’m really proud of the team because this was our first big win,” Tichon said. “We’ve got a big one against San Marino on Thursday. We came out a little slow, but we picked it up.”

Hoover continues league at home Thursday versus St. Paul at 4:30 p.m. and will likely look and perform differently as Beard sat out an undisclosed number of wrestlers on Tuesday due to missed practices.

“We have some wrestlers who think they don’t need to show up to practice or can take practices off and who don’t want to give 100%. That’s what’s disappointing, certainly more disappointing than this loss,” Beard said. “I hated sitting them out, but the lesson here is more important than the result. Winning and losing aren’t as important as caring about this team and being responsible.”

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