LA CAÑADA — All it took was eight rounds.
In that span, the host La Cañada High wrestling team saw its hopes of reclaiming a Rio Hondo League championship rise and suddenly fall versus defending titlist San Marino High on Thursday afternoon in a meeting of the league’s last two champions.
The CIF Southern Section Division VI fourth-ranked Titans won seven of the day’s first eight bouts, five via pins, and not only raced to an insurmountable lead, but, in the process, neutralized the Spartans’ advantage in the upper weights in what was a 40-31 victory among the likely top two finishers in league again this season.
“We were ready for that. Everyone knows that’s what [San Marino’s] strength is, the lower weights. I think we did a pretty good job keeping our heads up knowing that we had our heavies to rely on,” Spartans first-year Coach Justin Luthey said. “It really just came to a few swing weights. That’s two matches you know, two or three matches.”
The defeat leaves La Cañada on the outside of league and team postseason aspirations, as the Titans (2-0) have the inside track to a league championship and the league’s lone guaranteed berth to the Division VI Dual Meet Championships at Redondo Union High on Feb. 8.
What was unknown at the time was that a pin from San Marino’s Dominick Magana at 145 pounds in the seventh bout of the day and final in the lower weights provided all the offense the Titans needed, as the visitors raced to a 33-6 advantage.
Perhaps the most significant bout, however, came next at 152 pounds, as La Cañada junior Christopher Harb engaged San Marino’s Aaron Padilla in a thrilling, back-and-forth battle.
Harb scored the first takedown in a bout that was tied at 2 after one round and then saw Padilla take a 4-3 advantage on his own takedown after two periods.
Harb responded with a near fall in taking a 6-4 advantage early in the third before surrendering a reversal with 38 seconds left that tied the score and then a devastating near fall with five seconds remaining that delivered Padilla a come-from-behind 9-6 victory, which bumped San Marino’s lead to 36-6.
“That’s tough to say that’s the turning point because we were already so far down behind them ... that was a swing match right there,” Luthey said. “We really needed those points, those wins. It’s tough for Chris and it’s tough for our team, but he’ll bounce back.”
The Spartans did just that at 160 pounds when Daniel Badie notched the first of two pins for La Cañada when he recorded a fall versus Daniel Walsh at 1:13 to bring the home team within 36-12.
“We knew that San Marino had its studs in the lower weights and we were trying to change the momentum from them early,” Badie said. “We took the momentum away in the upper weights, but it was just too late.”
Unfortunately for La Cañada, San Marino’s Adam Padilla recorded a 10-0 major victory over Shawyane Emadi at 172 pounds to clinch the match as the Titans led, 40-12.
Despite their fate, the Spartans continued to battle and scored the final 19 points of the match on a 12-3 major decision from Alex Bache (182 pounds), an 11-6 win from Peter Garfield (195), a pin in 1:46 from 220-pounder Christian Tichon and forfeit victory at heavyweight, which afforded Spartans 285-pounder Guillermo Padilla a bye.
“I felt great to get the individual win, but honestly it’s disappointing to lose as a team. That’s all that really matters,” Garfield said. “We’ll have to rebound and come back from this loss.”
La Cañada scored the first six points via a Titans’ forfeit at 106 pounds. Yet, San Marino followed with pins from Russell Chang (113), Evan Wick (126), Zander Wick (132), Julian Flores (138) and Magana along with a 7-0 victory from Sebastian Mora (120).
“Hey, we knew La Cañada would be tough in the upper weights, so we took as many lower-weight points as possible,” Titans co-Coach John Azevedo said. “This was close. These guys were one pin away from beating us if you switch one of those scores.”