REDONDO BEACH — Up by 15 points three matches in, thoughts of an upset began to creep into the minds of the La Cañada High wrestling team.
The 10th-ranked Spartans had all the momentum early versus third-ranked West Torrance in the team’s first-round match at the CIF Southern Section Division VI Dual Meet Championships at Redondo Union High.
Yet, while the lead energized the Rio Hondo League runner-up Spartans, the deficit also served to revitalize the Bay League champion Warriors, who won nine of the last 11 bouts in storming back for a 49-25 victory Saturday afternoon.
With the defeat, the Spartans capped their team season at 4-2, while eight individual wrestlers prepare for the two-day long CIF Southern Section Eastern Division Individual Wrestling Championships at Perris Citrus Hill High, beginning Feb. 21.
“I saw a lot of toughness out here from my team,” Spartans first-year coach Justin Luthey said. “Some of their guys got [technical falls] when they should have got pins and we fought off our backs multiple times. I really respect those guys.
“It’s our last time as a team together, so I’m glad we fought hard. We were excited with our start, but West Torrance is a good team and they deserve the win.”
A draw previous to Saturday’s tournament determined that the starting weight for the first round would be at 195 pounds instead of the usual 106-pound division.
So, by the time the Spartans reached 106 pounds, the upper weights had already handed the team a 15-0 lead versus West Torrance, whose campus is located less than two miles away from Redondo Union.
Unfortunately for La Cañada, that advantage was short-lived.
West Torrance’s Amir Alinaghian landed a pin at 106 pounds to rally the Warriors (6-1) to within 15-6 and kick-start a 29-0 run that included pins from Octavio Canales (113 pounds), Yoshito Funakoshi (126) and Nathan Litman (132) and a technical fall from Jeremy Deckman (120).
La Cañada finally snapped West Torrance’s run at 138 pounds when junior Jesse Leamon picked up a 14-2 major victory over Joey Johnson to pull the Spartans within 29-19.
The triumph, however, may have given the Warriors something to be proud of as Johnson fought off four takedowns, two reversals and a near fall in denying Leamon a fall or technical pin.
Leamon’s victory was followed by two pins from West Torrance’s Frederick Czarske at 145 pounds and Dirk Young at 160 pounds and a technical pin at 170 pounds from Dhafir Williams.
Perhaps the fight of the afternoon came at 152 pounds between West Torrance’s Jacob Bingemann and La Cañada’s Chris Harb.
Bingemann landed a first-period takedown that stood for four minutes until Harb was awarded a point due to a technical violation by Bingemann a minute into the third round.
Despite Harb’s attempts to escape from the defensive position over the last minute, Bingemann held on for a 2-1 victory.
Bingemann’s triumph clinched the win for the Warriors, who took a 38-19 lead at the time with only three bouts remaining.
Despite being eliminated, La Cañada senior Alex Bache closed out his team’s season with a victory at 182 pounds in pinning Vignesh Krisha at 3:08.
“I thought our energy was up and everything was in our favor to start leading off with our heavyweights,” Spartans 220-pounder Christian Tichon said. “Obviously this is a disappointing loss because we thought we could have won this, but West Torrance is a really tough team and they also wrestled their best.”
Starting at the upper weights instantly played into the hands of the Spartans.
Rio Hondo League individual champion Peter Garfield started with a hard-fought 6-4 decision over Mohammad Awadal at 195 pounds that was secured thanks to a third-period reversal, which put La Cañada up, 3-0.
Spartans senior Tichon followed with the first of two pins for La Cañada when he took down Abraham Kim at 3:02, which came before a forfeit victory for heavyweight Guillermo Padilla, which propelled La Cañada to a 15-0 advantage.
“We were excited to have this opportunity to come out to CIF and keep the aggression up and confidence up for individual CIF,” Garfield said. “This was all about coming out one last time as a team and wrestling together and giving it our all. A lot of guys lost, some won, but there’s no question everyone tried their hardest.”