Im­pe­rial, Braw­ley claim CIFSDS wrestling ti­tles

Im­pe­rial, Braw­ley claim CIF-SDS wrestling ti­tles

Imperial Valley Press - - FRONT PAGE - BY AARON BODUS Sports Ed­i­tor

SAN DIEGO — No two ways about it, Sat­ur­day was a gala day for the Im­pe­rial Val­ley Wrestling scene, with not one, but two lo­cal schools rak­ing in the hard­ware at the CIF-SDS fi­nals.

First there was the Tigers of Im­pe­rial reach­ing the sum­mit in the Di­vi­sion IV tour­na­ment, bring­ing home what may turn out to be a pro­gram-al­ter­ing ti­tle, and their first un­der sev­enth year head coach Mark Bene­dict.

Then there was Braw­ley, ad­ding to its his­toric stack with a 19th con­sec­u­tive crown in Di­vi­sion III, over­com­ing a see­saw reg­u­lar sea­son to thwart any no­tions of dy­nas­tic de­cline.

Nei­ther team’s trek to the top would qual­ify as “easy-breezy” — with Im­pe­rial’s fi­nal mar­gin over ri­val Holtville be­ing only 12.5 team points (230 to 217.5) and Braw­ley dogged to a lesser de­gree by Mt. Carmel (254.5 to 223.5) — but both squads spent most of the af­ter­noon/ evening out at the head of the pack.

Both teams were well-rep­re­sented on the podi­ums, with 11 wrestlers medal­ing (that it, fin­ish­ing within the top four) for Braw­ley and nine for Im­pe­rial — with an ad­di­tional two non-medal­ist plac­ers for Im­pe­rial and one for Braw­ley.

Of those 20 cu­mu­la­tive medals, eight were gold.

Braw­ley had five in Daniel Moreno (108 pounds), An­thony Mal­don­ado (115 pounds), Pre­ston Brewer (128 pounds), Jose Gutier­rez (140 pounds) and Jay­den Smith (162 pounds).

Im­pe­rial’s three were Naythan Gal­biso (108 pounds), An­drew Luna (128 pounds) and Paul Or­tiz (162 pounds).

Nat­u­rally, post-match feel­ings were buoy­ant in both camps.

For Im­pe­rial, much of the thrill was in win­ning the first sectional ti­tle of their in­di­vid­ual ca­reers.

Or­tiz — last seen fin­ish­ing first at the Holtville Ro­tary tour­na­ment — ad­mit­ted that his in­di­vid­ual win this year (he also won in 2018 as a fresh­man) was all the sweeter with a team ban­ner at­tached.

“It feels great, ‘cause I was able to get the job done and help my team to the cham­pi­onship,” he said

He ex­pects the win to boost the Tigers’ over­all rep, not­ing that they haven’t al­ways been con­sid­ered a pow­er­house.

“When it comes to wrestling, we pretty much just showed every­body that we’re here to stay,” he said

Gal­biso said he had to fight off nerves ahead of his gold-medal-win­ning run but knew he “wanted to make sure to get pins for my team, be­cause I know we needed the cham­pi­onship.”

He said he was glad to be “mak­ing our city and our school very proud.”

For Braw­ley, the thrill of win­ning yet an­other ti­tle was am­pli­fied by the tri­als they had to over­come over the course of the reg­u­lar sea­son, namely in­juries.

First-placer Smith suf­fered a bro­ken foot and a par­tially torn ten­don in Novem­ber that cost him a huge chunk of the year.

But he was ready for CIF even though he “barely got back on the mat, just last week.”

Coach Tony Leon said of num­ber 19, “We earned it; we def­i­nitely earned it. The kids were hurt most of the sea­son, but they came to­gether in this tour­na­ment and wres­tled tough.”

Sit out and just wait to heal

For Coach Bene­dict, win No. 1 rep­re­sented a cul­mi­na­tion a years-long ef­fort, leav­ing him, “ec­static.”

“This is some­thing we’ve been work­ing for, for a long time,” he said. “It’s al­ways been our goal. A cou­ple of years we’ve been re­ally close — some­times se­cond, some­times third — but the kids have been putting in a lot of ef­fort, work­ing re­ally hard. … It’s an awe­some win.”

He cred­its, con­sis­tency and at­ten­tion to de­tail for the pro­gram’s rise, “We’re not the most flashy. We don’t teach a whole lot of dif­fer­ent stuff, but we try to fo­cus on solid wrestling.”

He hopes this is just the be­gin­ning. “What it re­ally shows,” he says, “is what we’ve been work­ing on and what we’ve been build­ing. … Ev­ery­one in the com­mu­nity will see [that] and want to be a part of it.”

Im­pe­rial poses with their cham­pi­onship ban­ner af­ter tak­ing first place at the CIF-SDS Di­vi­sion IV wrestling fi­nals held at St. Au­gus­tine High School in San Diego on Sat­ur­day. PHOTO AARON BODUS

PHOTO AARON BODUS

Braw­ley shows off their hard­ware af­ter a first place fin­ish at the CIF-SDS Di­vi­sion III wrestling fi­nals held at Mont­gomery High.

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