By Tadzio Garcia
It came down to the last match of the evening. The unusual large crowd of 200 were standing and screaming. Both teams were standing including the Rio Hondo College coaches, who were in a position they probably didn’t anticipate—a possible loss to their rival.
Enter the heavyweights – ELAC’s Julian Zuniga, ranked No. 7 in the state, and Javier Gonzalez of Rio Hondo College, winners of five of the last six Southeast Conference titles.
Zuniga controlled early on taking a 2-0 lead off of a takedown. Gonzalez fought back with reversal to pull even. Leading 4-3 with the match winding down, Zuniga took control flipping Gonzalez for an eventual fall and an upset victory for the Huskies.
“They beat us. They did a good job,” Mike Tellez, Rio Hondo coach said.
Zuniga said his match had a lot of scrambling. “Because of that I was able to pull him over. I put in a half nelson on him and was able to pull out the pin,” Zuniga said.
“The crowd was nerve racking at first, and so loud, but it worked to my advantage.”
The turning point in the match came at 184 pounds with ELAC losing 19-9. Husky Joshua Newman, ranked fourth in the state, didn’t need much time to pin Roadrunner Adrian Gonzalez to pull the Huskies within four.
Michael Middlebrooks, at 197 pounds, followed with two opening first period takedowns against Matt Lopez of Rio Hondo en route to a 13-3 major decision. Suddenly the score was 19-all. Either team could win.
On paper the Roadrunners were the favorites. Rio Hondo was ranked No. 11 in the state entering the game while East Los Angeles College was ranked No. 13. Rio Hondo had four individual wrestlers ranked statewide while ELAC had three.
Throw out statistics however when rivals meet. The Huskies would not let the opportunity escape them and won for the second time in three years in a rivalry that dates back almost four decades.
ELAC’s Hugo Perez began the evening in the 125 pound recording a fall over Brandon Moreno of Rio Hondo. Perez strategized before finding an opportunity to make his moves. When he did, the Huskies took an early 6-0 lead.
Joseph Padilla, one of the top Husky wrestlers, had the task of facing Brock Remmington, ranked 10th in the state, in the 133 pound match. Padilla wrestled well until a wrong move had him on the bottom, which resulted in a fall for Remmington. Rio Hondo erased their 6-3 deficit and built a ten point lead.
The match opened with two non-scoring exhibition matches that set the tone for the dual. Michael Reyes lost a 12-11 decision to David Moran.
Husky Maury Lemons wrestled one of the most exciting matches of the evening, based on the crowd’s reaction. Lemons was down 3-2 to Roadrunner Nick Auxier. With four seconds left Lemons scored a takedown and pull out the win, 4-3. With the win, Lemons jumped with excitement with his fist in the air.
Nobody knew it, but his comeback was a glimpse of the entire match.
The Huskies will travel to Mt. San Antonio College for a Wednesday, Oct. 24, 6 p.m. match.