CIF dual meet wrestling championships attract attention

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The San Diego Section divisional dual meet wrestling championships, version 2.0, took place last Saturday (Feb. 13) at Mira Mesa and Rancho Bernardo high schools. Champions were crowned in four divisions, with 32 teams in total participating.

The Division I and Division III tournaments took place at Mira Mesa High School; Rancho Bernardo High School hosted the Division II and Division IV tournaments.

The San Diego Section divisional dual meet wrestling championships, version 2.0, took place last Saturday (Feb. 13) at Mira Mesa and Rancho Bernardo high schools. Champions were crowned in four divisions, with 32 teams in total participating.

The Division I and Division III tournaments took place at Mira Mesa High School; Rancho Bernardo High School hosted the Division II and Division IV tournaments.

Six schools from the Grossmont Conference participated: Helix (Division I), Valhalla and Granite Hills (Division II), West Hills and Monte Vista (Division III) and Mount Miguel (Division IV). None claimed division championships but all the coaches believed the format for the second-year event was much improved from last year, though it’s still not perfect.

Helix coach Adam Krzywicki was among the many coaches favoring the new dual championship format.

“I like it because it eliminates multiple weigh-ins during the week, and all the teams are together, which increases the number of spectators and makes it more exciting,” he said.

The Highlanders, this year’s Grossmont Hills League dual meet champions, were seeded third in the eight-team Division I field but placed fourth after a 31-30 tiebreaker loss to fifth-seeded Mira Mesa.

Helix opened the tournament with a 41-30 win over sixth-seeded Escondido but then dropped a 43-20 semifinal match-up to second-seeded Rancho Buena Vista.

The semifinal setback placed the Scotties in the third-place match against Mira Mesa, which fell 44-21 to top-seeded San Marcos after blitzing fourth-seeded Eastlake 49-27 in the opening round.

The Highlanders led the Marauders 30-27 heading into the final 115-pound match after Helix 108-pounder Marcus Tucker won by decision. But Mira Mesa pulled even at 30 points when Brandon Rasgaitis, the outstanding lightweight wrestler at January’s Monte Vista Invitational, scored a clutch 3-1 win in the final match of the dual.

With the teams knotted 30-30, Mira Mesa then won on the second tiebreaker criteria with seven wins to six wins. One match ended in a double forfeit that ultimately tipped the scales in the Marauders’ favor.

San Marcos edged RBV 32-30 in the Division I championship match.

Among the new features at this year’s divisional dual meet championships was the installation of a third-place match that was not wrestled for last year.

Despite the disappointing ending for Helix, there has been much to celebrate this season for the Highlanders, who finished 4-0 in league duals and entered last weekend’s CIF dual championship tournament 7-0 in duals overall.

However, the Helix team that took the mat last weekend was not as strong as the one that started the season, Krzywicki acknowledged.

“The team that started the season is a lot different than the team that is ending the season,” he said. “We’ve suffered a number of injuries, and we’re a little light for this tournament, we’re forfeiting three weight classes. But it’s good experience for our younger wrestlers.”

Next up for all teams is participation in Saturday’s San Diego Section individual divisional championship tournaments. This is where the road to the state meet starts. Top place-finishers in the four divisional tournaments qualify to compete in the San Diego Section Masters state-qualifying tournament Feb. 26-27 at Christian High School.

The top seven place-winners at both the Division I tournament (Otay Ranch High School) and Division II tournament (Westview High School) qualify for Masters.

The top six place-winners at the Division III tournament (Del Norte High School) advance to compete at Masters while the top four place-winners at the Division IV tournament (Madison High School) also qualify.

The top six place-finishers at Masters receive medals, while the top three place-winners advance to compete at the state tournament March 4-5 in Bakersfield.

Helix will participate in the Division I tournament. Valhalla, Granite Hills, Grossmont and Steele Canyon will compete in the Division II tournament; West Hills, Monte Vista, El Cajon Valley and El Capitan will participate in the Division III tournament; and Mount Miguel, Santana and Christian will participate in the Division IV tournament.

Helix senior Trence Gillem, with just two losses on the season, has been a showcase for the Highlanders all season. The 140-pounder enters this weekend’s CIF tournament ranked fifth in the state with losses to the No. 1- and No. 4-ranked wrestlers during the season.

Gillem is undefeated in the section.

“I think he’s got a post-season run in him,” Krzywicki said. “He’ll be going to the divisionals ranked No. 1. His goals are to win the divisionals, the section (Masters) and state.”

Other Highlander mat men to keep an eye on at Saturday’s Division I finals include 115-pounder Spencer Pham and 120-pounder Jonathan Honda.

Parade of Champions

Joining San Marcos as divisional dual meet champions last Saturday were Poway (Division II), Brawley (Division III) and Valley Center (Division IV).

San Marcos, Poway and Brawley all repeated as section dual meet champions.

Top-seeded Poway defeated second-seeded Rancho Bernardo, 52-15, for the Division II title while Brawley turned back a strong challenge from third-seeded La Costa Canyon 57-23 to win the Division III championship. Top-seeded Valley Center dethroned last year’s champion, Holtville, seeded third this year, by a score of 44-26 to secure the Division IV title.

San Marcos and RBV were clearly the dominant teams at the Division I tournament. The teams exchanged leads throughout their championship dual before Oscar Nellis, son of RBV coach Marty Nellis, pinned at 108 pounds to lock the Longhorns even with the Knights 30-30.

Eric Marquez then won a heart-pounding 3-1-overtime match against RBV’s Bernie Truax to give San Marcos the win. One team point was deducted from the Knights’ final score when an overzealous fan ran out onto the mat to give Marquez a congratulatory hug.

Truax had entered the match ranked third in the section in the weight class while Marquez was ranked fifth.

In first-round duals, San Marcos eliminated eighth-seeded El Camino 51-18 while RBV topped seventh-seeded Mission Hills 64-6.

Division III

Brawley out-muscled eighth-seeded University (60-9) and fourth-seeded West Hills (70-7) in the opening rounds before stalling third-seeded LCC in the finals. The Wildcats won despite a wave of illness and injuries that have swept through the team — a familiar pattern at this time of the season for many section mat squads.

La Costa Canyon defeated Point Loma, 69-6, in the first round while Grossmont Valley League champion West Hills turned back a late challenge from East County rival Monte Vista, 45-34, in its opening match.

West Hills coach Mike Proctor was ecstatic over the Wolf Pack’s season that included a 5-0 showing in league duals and 6-0 overall regular season dual record.

“It’s the first time we’ve been independent league champions since ’06, and it’s been longer than that since we’ve gone undefeated in dual competition,” Proctor said.

Three West Hills’ wrestlers finished undefeated in league duals: Greg Papstein (140), Nick Rivinius (162) and Kevin Ah Key (222).

Ah Key won a key match by pin to stave off a late comeback by the Monarchs, who trailed 39-28 with two matches remaining and had a chance to pull off a 40-39 win with maximum value-point wins in the final two bouts.

The Wolf Pack started off strong with pins in the first two matches and a win by minor decision to zip out in front 15-0. West Hills would later extend its lead to 27-6 before Monte Vista roared back into contention.

The Wolf Pack hopes to make a good showing numbers-wise at this year’s Masters tournament. “I’m extremely optimistic,” Proctor said. “There’s two or three on the team who might not make it to Masters (out of 14 weight classes). We took seven to Masters last year.”

West Hills finished fourth at last weekend’s dual championships. Brawley overpowered the Wolf Pack by a 70-7 score in the semifinals to drop West Hills to the third-place match against Ramona.

The Valley League champion Bulldogs won 52-30 to place third.

Ramona opened the Division III tournament with a 51-24 win over seventh-seeded Montgomery, but went on to drop a 60-18 decision to third-seeded La Costa Canyon in the semifinals.  

Ramona freshman sensation Jeffrey Ramsthaler finished the tournament unscathed to improve his seasonal record to 31-0.

Division II

Two lower-seeded teams won opening-round duals in the Division II tournament. Sixth-seeded Valhalla knocked out third-seeded Mt. Carmel, 66-19, while fifth-seeded Westview eliminated fourth-seeded Orange Glen 45-30.

The two other opening-round Division II duals were not close: Poway defeated San Ysidro, 78-9, while second-seeded Rancho Bernardo shut out seventh-seeded Granite Hills 83-0.

In the semifinals, Poway blanked Westview, 71-0, while Rancho Bernardo topped Valhalla 58-18.

Poway defeated RB by a score of 52-15 in the championship round. The Titans lost just five matches during the three rounds.

Division IV

Valley Center defeated Holtville to capture its first divisional dual championship after previously topping eighth-seeded Imperial (60-10) in the opening round and fifth-seeded Army-Navy Academy (57-27) in the semifinals. 

Holtville defeated sixth-seeded Madison (48-30) and second-seeded Mt. Miguel (48-33) in the semifinals.

Army-Navy defeated fourth-seeded St. Augustine (42-33) while Mt. Miguel defeated seventh-seeded Clairemont (48-29) in a pair of opening round match-ups.

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