By Sergio Berrueta
Five Husky wrestlers advanced to the state finals out of the 2012 South Regional Championships, which were hosted by East Los Angeles College last Saturday.
The Wrestling State Championships will take place at West Hills College Lemoore, Friday and Saturday. West Hills won the regionals and the Huskies placed seventh by upsetting Cuesta College by half a point.
Husky Joshua Newman advanced to the finals after taking third place in the 174-pound weight class. He overcame an injury during the quarterfinal championship loss.
Newman earned a pin at 3:11 against Edgar Cortez of West Hills. A loss against Tyree Cox of Cerritos College kept Newman out of the championship match.
Newman grabbed third place after he pinned Broderick Goens from Mt. San Antonio College at 38 seconds.
ELAC’s Julian Zuniga, ranked third statewide in the heavyweight division, overcame an injury to advance to the state finals after taking fifth place.
Zuniga won against Rio Hondo College’s Nick Auxier with a pin at 3:48. He then faced Santa Ana College’s Ari Ekezian losing 10-8 while suffering a pulled muscle, which he overcame in a rematch against Auxier to place fifth overall.
“I had a close chance of placing at the top, but when I pulled the muscle I knew I was nearly done for. I am however glad that I managed to get fifth and advance to the state finals,” Zuniga said.
Michael Middlebrooks was the only Husky who advanced to a championship match. He lost a 5-2 decision in the 184-pound class to Mt. SAC’s Kennet Breaux, the state’s top-ranked wrestler.
Middlebrooks qualified for the state finals. He is ranked No. 7 statewide in his weight class also won over Santa Ana’s Don Hernandez in a 12-4 decision and No. 8 Adrian Garcia of Rio Hondo, 6-4.
Hugo Perez advanced to the state finals after winning a challenge over Santa Ana’s Brandon Brown in the 125-pound weight class. Brown challenged Perez who won sixth place. Perez overcame the face-off with a decision over Brown.
Perez lost a 12-0 major decision Gabe Ballesteros of Cerritos and a 4-0 decision to Matthew Correa of Cuesta, the state’s top-ranked wrestler at 125-pounds. Perez also defeated Ballesteros in a rematch, 10-4.
Omar Ochoa, who took sixth place on Saturday in the 149-pound weight class, lost a challenge match to Bakersfield College. Ochoa keeps his sixth place medal, but does not move on to the state finals.
Ochoa started strong against Santa Ana’s Nathan Matteo winning 13-9, but lost against Cuesta’s Dolin Minnini, 11-9. In a rematch against Matteo, Ochoa lost 10-7.
Ochoa advanced to the Southern Regionals by beating veteran teammate Adrian Virgin, a state finalist last year. “Ochoa is a tough guy from a family of wrestlers,” ELAC Head Coach Ralph Valle said.
Husky Victor Cisneros advanced to the state finals after winning the fifth place match at 197-pounds. Cisneros who normally wrestles at 157-pounds has been bumped in weight classes all season.
Cisneros won his first match by default over Rio Hondo’s Daniel Lemus. “It was a tense match. By the end of the second period, he (Lemus) was injured. It may have ended quick, but it was worth it,” Cisneros said.
Cisneros scored upsets in every match he won. He lost to No. 4-ranked Tyler Smith of Cerritos 13-4. He came back in the semifinals to beat Jared Matanane of Mt. SAC in a huge offset, a 3-2 decision to take the fifth place medal and advance to the state finals.
He advanced to the finals despite being injured in a match earlier with Derek Jaurigue from Cuesta where he lost 9-1.
ELAC’s Joseph Padilla, opened the day losing a 9-2 decision against No. 1-ranked Juan Jaime of Santa Ana in the 133-pound weight class. Padilla continued on to place seventh against Mt. SAC’s Hector Lopez, scoring a 10-6 decision. “I expected Padilla to advance to the state finals,” Valle said.
At 157 pounds, Husky Andrew Reel delivered a 21-6 technical fall over James O’Neill from Victor Valley College. Reel lost a tense 8-6 decision in the seventh place match to Eddie Rogers from Cerritos.
At 141 pounds, Husky Alex Contreras lost a 6-1 decision early on to Cuesta’s Julian Purdy. Contreras was pinned by Max Ramirez from Bakersfield at 5:40.
At 197 pounds, Francisco Aceves also lost two matches, which were against Cuesta’s Jonathan Urango, 21-6, and to No. 5 Sergio Guerrero of Mt. SAC, 6-2.
“I haven’t wrestled for two years since high school and came up short. This season at ELAC was my first stepping-stone. Next year, I’ll be back and you’ll hear me make noise,” Aceves said.
“We are taking five to the finals. I thought it would be more also with Aceves and Reel advancing,” Valle said.
The Huskies are ranked No. 12 statewide and also upset No. 8 Bakersfield for the first time in tournaments.