By Tadzio Garcia
The No. 12-ranked East Los Angeles College Huskies stunned No. 7-ranked Cuesta College in front of a vocal crowd to take third place at the Southeast Conference finals at Bakersfield College last Saturday, Nov. 10.
“It was an emotional win for us. This is a tough place to wrestle, with so much history,” said Husky standout Joshua Newman. ELAC made a statement today with the upset. “We are getting closer each meet of ending the season as a top-ten team,” Husky standout Joshua Newman said.
The Huskies hung in tough but lost a 27-21 squeaker to champion West Hills College and a 24-18 nail-biter to No. 8 Bakersfield, who took second place. The Huskies beat No. 17 Victor Valley College, 32-6.
Joshua Newman and Julian Zuniga finished undefeated for the day at 4-0, each winning SC titles.
Zuniga, won his title off the heels of winning a top wrestler award at the recent Meathead Movers Invitational at Cuesta College with a big win in the heavyweight championship match over the then top-ranked heavyweight wrestler in the state, Daniel Gusev of Sierra College.”
Newman, who returned to the mat after an injury kept him out for three weeks. He was ranked the No. 3 wrestler in the state at 174 pounds until his injury. “I was nervous in my first match at Bakersfield. Once I began wrestling it all went away and I focused even with the noise,” Newman said. The Bakersfield crowd responded to matched while Husky faithful screamed with support for ELAC. Newman wrestled up a weight class the entire day at 184-pounds
The Huskies competed in higher weight classes to help with the team scores while covering injured players who didn’t compete. “We wrestled well considering. We still can do better,” Head Coach Ralph Valle said.
Michael Middlebrooks normally wrestles at 184 pounds mostly wrested in the 197-pound division. “It was tough wrestling up a weight class. Wrestlers were tougher and stronger. The benefit is that they were also slower,” Middlebrooks said.
Middlebrooks who is ranked No. 7 in the state at 184-pounds, ended 3-1 for the day.
A key to the upset win over Cuesta was Adrian Virgen. He was a huge underdog in this match. Virgen said didn’t rankings didn’t matter to him so he focused instead on strategy.
“It was a close match. In the second period I chose bottom. As he reached to pull me up I did a bicycle seat and threw him on his back. I held him about 30 seconds and got three points and one won by one point,” Virgen said.
Virgen wrestled up a division at 157 pounds for the day and finished 3-1 overall. He stepped up his game this time last year and advanced to the 2011 state finals.
Jeremy Christenson was injured out the gates. It will be a huge loss for the Huskies if Christenson’s injury turns out to be serious. Christenson proved himself earlier in the season by almost upsetting No. 1-ranked Steven Melara of Mt. SAC only to lose as time expired, also on Oct. 24 at Mt. SAC.
Hugo Perez dropped from a top-ten individual ranking to No. 13 in the 125-pound weight class because of recent illness. He returned to the mat in Bakersfield without much practice time.
“It was difficult without no wrestling time for a week but I flipped a switch, wrestled and tried my best. In fact, I didn’t even know if Coach Valle would wrestle me. I just wanted to get the team some points,” Perez said.
When asked about dropping in the rankings, which could result in a tougher draw if he advances to the state finals, Perez said, “As far as the rankings go for me, it doesn’t mean much. I just want to win for the team. That’s what is important to me.”
Victor Cisneros wrestled up a weight class at 174 pounds finishing with a 2-2 record. “The move up worked out for me. I felt healthier because I didn’t have to drop weight,” Cisneros said. Cisneros has shown the most improvement on the team. He is peaking at the right time, as the season is winding down.
Cisneros has come from nowhere to win four upsets in his last two matches. He began at the Meathead Movers Invitational by scoring his first pin of his college career against a favored opponent from Shasta.
“I started on the bottom in the second period. I pinned him off of a reversal putting him on his back. It helped with confidence at Bakersfield and I’m taking this into the Brawl,” Cisneros said.
ELAC will host their Second Annual Brawl this Saturday, Nov. 17 beginning at 10 a.m.
The tournament will include No. 9 Cerritos, Bakersfield, and Victor Valley.
Virgen says he will wrestle in his normal weight class at 149 pounds. “The guys are smaller than in the 157 pound weight class and I feel stronger.” Most ELAC wrestlers will be pitted against each other to determine which Huskies will advance to the postseason.
The Huskies will host the South Regional’s on Saturday, Dec. 1, all day. The state finals will be at West Hills College in Lemoore, Calif. Preliminary rounds will begin on Friday, Dec. 7. Preliminaries will continue on Dec. 8 at 10 a.m. Championship finals begin at 7 p.m.