Story by John Salzer
LOS ANGELES, Calif. - If there is anything that the Santa Ana College Wrestling team has to be thankful for, it's knowing that they are heading in the right direction. The Dons wrestling team went to East LA College for it's annual Brawl Tournament, the last regular event of the season, and walked out knowing that much improvement has happened. Taking eight wrestlers into the tournament, plus female wrestler Polette Montano, the team got five wrestlers into the finals, with four of them winning their weight classes. The tournament featured teams exclusively from the Southern Region, along with club teams USC, UCLA, and Cal State Northridge. Missing in action were #3 ranked in state Mt. San Antonio College and West Hills Lemoore College, while #2 ranked in state Cerritos College was resting its A-team wrestlers preparing to host Fresno City College for the State Dual Championship taking place the next day. With that in mind, the outright contenders of the day were Palomar College and Santa Ana.
At 125 pounds, Sam Galdamez-Valle and Edgar Gonzalez set the tone for how the Dons would be looking by both winning their quarterfinals matches to get them into the semi-finals. Galdamez-Valle won his watch by a score of 6-2 against Andrew Lopez of USC while Gonzalez wasted no time in scoring bonus points for the team with a fall over Trevor Bass of Victor Valley in only one minute and thirty seconds. The run to the finals ended for both wrestlers when Galdamez-Valle suffered a majority decision loss of 10-0 to Isaac Guerrero of Palomar, and on the other side, Gonzalez could not secure a takedown in the final seconds of his semi-final match, losing 5-3 to Pedro Ramirez of Bakersfield. For Galdamez-Valle, his tournament run ended with a loss in the consolation semi-finals to Adrian Guevarra of Rio Hondo by a score of 8-3. Gonzalez came back with another fall in his consolation semi-finals match over Nick Coria of Bakersfield. In the 3rd place match, Gonzalez started with two early takedowns while his opponent Adrian Guevarra (Rio Hondo) scored two escapes to make the match 4-2. However, Guevarra secured a head and arm feet to back move and scored six points before Gonzalez was able to get off his back and escape to finish the period 8-5 in Guevarra's favor. The second period started with Gonzalez taking the bottom. Two stall calls against Guevarra gave Gonzalez a point before he also got an escape, but could capitalize further and the period would end 8-7, still in Guevarra's favor. Guevarra would choose bottom in the third period, getting an escape for a 9-7 lead. Gonzalez would secure a takedown to tie the score 9-9 but was unable to prevent Guevarra from scoring the last point of the match with an escape, giving Guevarra the win and a fourth-place finish for Gonzalez.
While there was no MVP award handed out for the tournament, Josh Fuentes-Norikiyo at 133 pounds would certainly have had a case for such an award. Fuentes-Norikiyo was one of only two champions to win all their matches by fall. His quarterfinals match would end at two minutes and forty-five seconds of the first period over Lucas Howes of Palomar, while his semi-finals match would end quicker at one minute and ten seconds of the first period. His finals match would see more action, as he would lead 6-1 going into the second period after having scored two takedowns and a two point near fall. Fuentes-Norikiyo would start the second period with an escape before securing a takedown, and from there would ride his opponent before getting the fall with a half nelson at one minute and forty-three seconds of the second period.
At 141 pounds, Andrew Longmore's return to action after injury saw a rough start as he lost by majority decision 9-1 to Manuel Romero of Rio Hondo in the quarterfinals. He would rebound by winning by fall at two minutes and thirty seconds over Daniel Labastida of Moorpark, and another win by a score of 2-1 over Benjamin Angel of East LA in the second consolation round. His run in the tournament would end in the third round with a loss of 11-9 to Mark Rodriguez of Bakersfield. Jeremy Huang started off his day by finishing with a majority decision of 15-4 over Victor Daza of Cuesta in the quarterfinals. In the semi-finals, Huang continued his dominance over conference opponents by a tech fall win of 15-0 over Manuel Romero of Rio Hondo. For the finals match, it would be a different story. Huang would face Arturo Osorio of Palomar, and for the first period, neither wrestler could score points. Osorio would then score the first points of the match with an escape in the second period, then scoring a takedown off of Huang. Huang would respond with an escape and enough offense for a stall call against Osorio to end the second period down 3-1. Huang would score his own escape in the third period, followed by a second stall call against Osorio, tying the match 3-3. Both wrestlers could not score beyond that and with no riding time, the match would go into overtime. Osorio would strike first and capitalize, getting the sudden victory takedown, giving Huang the second place finish.
Wolfgang Bernal at 149 pounds would also contribute to the Santa Ana pinning machine by making quick work of his quarterfinals opponent Miguel Barragan of UCLA in one minute and twenty-eight seconds of the first period. His biggest challenge of the day would come in the semi-finals against Khalil Howard of Rio Hondo, whom he had faced at the Meathead Movers tournament. After a scoreless first period, Bernal would score the first points of the match with a reversal after choosing down to start the second period. He would then ride Howard out for the remainder of the period. Howard would choose neutral to start the third period, which proved to work in his favor as he would score a takedown off Bernal. However, Bernal would not stand for being ridden, and would escape to take a 3-2 lead, and also finish the match with riding time for a score of 4-2 and giving Santa Ana its third finalist for the day. Bernal would then live up to his nickname "The Wolf" in the finals by scoring a quick takedown over Nathan Navida of Palomar, then followed by a fall at one minute and eleven seconds of the first period.
Brandon Tierney would make his debut at 165 pounds for the season in style, by repeating his performance over Anthony Espinoza of Rio Hondo with a fall at two minutes and twenty-six seconds, having pinned Espinoza at the conference dual versus Rio Hondo. Because of the size of the 165 pounds bracket, this match was actually the semi-finals, making Tierney the fourth SAC Don to advance to the finals of the tournament. Although taken down early by his finals opponent Mace Anderson of Palomar, Tierney would then score an escape and takedown, before cutting Anderson loose and securing another takedown plus nearfall points. Tierney would not allow Anderson to score for the remainder of the match while finishing with a majority decision 17-3.
Leonel Lopez at 184 pounds was also the beneficiary of a small weight class, meeting his opponent Merceles Velasquez of Palomar in the semi-finals, whom he had lost to earlier in the season. After a scoreless first period, Perez would turn things up by scoring an escape and a takedown in the second period to lead 3-0. Velasquez would get an escape in the third period, but Perez would have the upper hand and secure the win with a takedown in the final second of the match to win 5-1 and give Santa Ana its fifth finalist of the day. Facing Dartagnan Phan of USC in the finals, Phan would score the first points with a takedown and two point near fall, before Perez would escape. It would be while both wrestlers were gridlocked in a head and arm that Perez would strike first and catch Phan on his back, getting the fall at two minutes and thirty-nine seconds of the first period. This would also give Santa Ana the fourth individual title of the day.
There were four women competing for the day, Jennifer Villafana and Adriana Rojas of East LA, Melissa Estrada of Rio Hondo, and Polette Montano of Santa Ana. Montano started her day with a win over Jennifer Villafana of East LA by a score of 9-4 in their first match of the women's division. Montano would then make quick work of her second-round opponent Estrada of Rio Hondo by scoring a fall in two minutes and eight seconds of the first period. Montano would then face Rojas of East LA and secure a quick takedown in the first period, before working to a fall while catching Rojas' arm in one minute and fifty-three seconds of the first period. Having won all three of her matches in the women's division, Montano's victory gave Santa Ana College its fifth individual title for the day. Montano also extended her active win streak to 11.
Palomar College cruised to victory for the team title on the strength of nine wrestlers getting into the finals, finishing with a team score of 240.5 points. Santa Ana would finish as the clear runner-up with 137.5 points, well ahead of third place Rio Hondo, who finished with 98 points. The second place finish for the day gave Santa Ana its first top three tournament placing since the 2013 Cuesta Meathead Movers tournament.
Palomar - 240.5
Santa Ana - 137.5
Rio Hondo - 98
Cerritos - 78.5
Bakersfield - 77.5
Cuesta - 74
USC - 70.5
Moorpark - 53
East LA - 47
Cal State Northridge - 32.5
The Santa Ana College wrestling will travel to Bakersfield for the Southern Regionals tournament on December 2nd.