By Tadzio Garcia
The wrestling team pulled off upsets to finish ninth out of 32 teams with 43.5 points at the Santa Ana Tournament with Joshua Newman and Juliann Zuniga placing in the championship round.
As a result, the Huskies are now ranked 13th in the first statewide poll of the season.
The team stands 1-7 overall in dual meet competition. Their individual weight class strength gives them their high ranking.
Head Coach Ralph Valle predicted the Huskies will continue to improve heading towards a full-strength team at the season’s state finals.
This was the format the Huskies worked on last season when they took 11th place at state last year. They entered state finals ranked 17th statewide.
“I was hoping for better results at the Santa Ana Tournament. We are continuing to improve,” Valle said.
Palomar College, undefeated this year, won the championship with 118.5 points followed by runner-up Mt. San Antonio College.
Mt. SAC edged two-time defending state champion Fresno City College 107.5 to 107 points. Thirteen colleges competed with some sending “B” and “C” teams. The Husky “B” team placed 21st.
Husky Joseph Padilla commented on his tournament results at the 133 pound weight class. “I didn’t focus at the edge of the mat, so I lost when I should have won and at least placed in the top five. I feel like I let my team down,” Padilla said.
Padilla, 7-2 overall this season, won on a technical fall in round one, followed by a 16-11 decision loss. He scored wins in consolation rounds three and four, before being eliminated in the consolation quarterfinals, 11-10.
Padilla lost in the last minute to Jake Lincoln of Cuesta College after dominating with leads until the last minute of the match.
Padilla said he is confident to come back in the next weeks to prove himself stronger for the team.
Zuniga’s 285 pound fourth place finish in the championship round included an upset of 4th-seeded Martin Gonzalez of Mt. SAC in the third round.
Maury Lemons won his first round match in the same weight class, 6-0, over Bakersfield’s Anthony Toavalu before being eliminated.
Newman, 10-2 for the season at 174 pounds, recorded falls in his third round match against Jeremy Coane of Fresno City at 2:35, in the fifth round against Sergio Guerrero of Mt. SAC at 4:45 and in the third place match against Chris Bascon of Palomar.
Also at 174 pounds, Francisco Aceves began his Husky career in Santa Ana, coming off injuries to beat Palomar’s Wes Burriesci in a 13-5 major decision.
“This was my first match in two years so it was difficult for me. I had to step it up every moment,” Aceves said.
Hugo Perez, at 125 pounds, scored wins in the first round (11-1), the third round (15-0) and the fourth round (11-9) before being eliminated. Perez went 3-2 for the day.
Alex Contreras, at 133 pounds, scored an 8-2 decision in the first round and a fall in the third round.
Omar Ochoa, at 149 pounds, went 4-2 for the day, ending with a loss in the consolation semifinals. He scored close wins in the third through fifth consolation rounds, 12-11, 11-8 and 17-12 respectively.
Ochoa’s third round win was a buzzer beater, winning with two seconds left against Naemon Taylor of Sacramento City College.
“I was up 10-9 and had him on the bottom. I knew I had to let him go, giving him a point and then attacking him for a takedown,” Ochoa said.
Ochoa’s 11-8 win was against teammate Jeremy Christenson.
“After being out two weeks to illness, I felt like I would win either way because one of us would help the team with a win,” Christenson said.
Christenson says conditioning will help him in his next meet.
“I will drop down to 141 pounds for the next match by running five miles daily while adding sprints and other techniques to my strength training, and improving on my stance (low) and elbow position.”
ELAC lost points by not wrestling in the 184 and 197 pound weight classes. “We are still figuring out our weight classes. These positions will be filled and we will do well,” Valle said.
The Huskies host No. 11-ranked Rio Hondo College, who took seventh place at Santa Ana, tonight in the men’s gym at 7 p.m.