Merced High put five wrestlers into the finals of the Westside Invitational on Saturday, but by the time Romeo Medina stepped onto the mat for the final match of the night, the Bears had lost four of them and watched the team lead slip away to host Firebaugh.
Medina gave Merced one saving grace, using three takedowns, a reverse and a pair of near-falls to defeat Jacob Myers of Christopher High in Gilroy 13-1 and give his team a few points.
“Some of my teammates went down and it just got me mad, so I had to get one for us. One of us had to be up on top,” Medina said. “We really wanted that first-place trophy, you know. Coming here, we were pretty confident we would get it, but things didn’t turn out so well.”
Merced finished in second place with 135.5 points. Firebaugh, which placed four wrestlers in the championship matches and won two of them, earned 137 points. Armand Molina earned a major victory (14-3) over Los Banos’ Fernando Mendoza at 132 pounds, and Isaac Rangel earned a major (10-0) over Merced’s Kenneth Hamel.
“Having Merced and Los Banos, strong teams pushing us, made us wrestle better,” Firebaugh coach Bill Magnusson said. “Our guys were cognitive of the team score, so they knew what it was. They knew Merced had the lead going into the finals, they know, OK, we’ve got four matches.
“We knew in one or two of the matches we were kind of outmatched, so we were going to try to get majors or techs if we could, because we needed those match points to win the tournament.”
Los Banos High faced a similar situation, leading Christopher High 94-92 heading into the finals. LB had three wrestlers going, while Christopher had four. LB’s Tyler Felix defeated Buchanan’s Jake Levatino 4-2 at 120 pounds, and Andrew Cintora pinned Buchanan’s Ernesto Flores at 138 pounds, but Christopher earned a decision (Felipe Duenas, 8-1 over Firebaugh’s Marcelino Madriz at 106), a major (Jimmy Lopez, 12-2 over Madera’s Jimmy Costa at 113) and a technical fall (Alex Garcia 22-7 over Merced’s Christian Leyva) to pull into third place.
Cintora entered the tournament with an 0-8 record, and it was his first action back from an ankle injury. He was about the only person in the gym who wasn’t suprised he earned a pin against the Buchanan wrestler. Cintora trailed 5-2 after the first period, and started on top in the second. Flores was inches from escaping when Cintora exploded with energy and put him on his back.
“I wouldn’t say I got lucky, I just scrambled my out of it and let him wrestle,” Cintora said. “I didn’t take shots or anything, I just waited for him to wrestle. That’s what my philosophy is. I didn’t take a shot all day.”