LA CAÑADA — For a second straight year, the La Cañada High wrestling program is draped in silver.
By virtue of the Spartans’ 51-21 home finale victory over Monrovia on Thursday afternoon, La Cañada clinched second place within the Rio Hondo League.
Yet, there isn’t the same sense of disappointment that accompanied a runner-up finish for the squad last season for one distinct reason.
“We’re definitely going to do whatever we can to get to the team playoffs,” Spartans first-year Coach Justin Luthey said. “I know the team didn’t apply last season and I don’t really know why. That’s not the case for us. We want to go the playoffs.”
While San Marino (4-0) is on course to win a second straight league championship and take the Rio Hondo’s lone automatic berth to the Division VI Dual Meet Championships at Redondo Union High on Feb. 8, La Cañada (3-1) strengthened its at-large bid by clinching second in the week the Spartans cracked the divisional rankings at No. 10.
La Cañada can further aid to its cause with a win in the regular-season finale on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. at St. Paul.
Regardless of what happens Tuesday, Luthey said he would apply for an at-large berth, unlike last year’s team.
As for Thursday, the Spartans found themselves in a battle, as the Wildcats nearly overcame a 28-point deficit and closed within 28-21 thanks to a surprise pin at 171 pounds from D.J. Ferris.
Yet, there was no cause for alarm as the upper weights had proven to be the Spartans’ strength all season long and again on Thursday afternoon.
Spartans senior Alex Bache stopped the Wildcats’ 21-point scoring streak by delivering a 16-1 technical victory at 182 pounds that gave the home squad a 33-21 advantage.
That win was followed up by a clinching first-period pin from La Cañada senior Peter Garfield at 195 pounds, as the Spartans claimed an insurmountable 39-21 victory.
Garfield’s victory came in the last contested bout of the match, as Monrovia forfeited the 220-pound and heavyweight class bouts to La Cañada’s Christian Tichon and Stephen Naldzhyan, respectively.
Garfield’s win also had a double significance since it didn’t put extra pressure on Luthey, who was without top heavyweight Guillermo Padilla, who was on a field trip.
“I think the guys were somewhat disappointed that they didn’t win by a bigger margin, but I’m fine,” Luthey said. “I was just happy with how we started out. We normally don’t do that well at the beginning.”
Unlike previous Rio Hondo League matches, the Spartans were on fire in the lower weights with an 11-2 major victory from Sean Consolo (106 pounds), an 11-9 win from Tim Skaggs (113), an injury default triumph for Andrew Aghadjanians (120), a forfeit win for Douglas Williams (126), a pin from Andrew Sarceda (132 pounds) and a 15-9 victory for Jesse Leamon at 138 pounds that built La Cañada a hefty 28-0 lead.
“I know I should have finished with a pin in my match or at least got a major,” Leamon said. “I think we all feel that we should have done better. The good thing is that we won and now we’re ready for a big week.”