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City Wrestling Championship a "Big" Deal for Birmingham PDF Print E-mail
Written by Mike Terry   
Thursday, 28 February 2013 06:02

Patriots Win The Last Three Upper Weight Matches To Slip Past El Camino Real

Size mattered in the Los Angeles City Section 2013 wrestling team championship. And Birmingham High had the most critical mass. The Patriots won four individual titles at the City championship meet last Saturday, Feb. 23, at Los Angeles Roybal Learning Center. Three of them came in the last three (and heaviest) weight classifications, and it boosted Birmingham to its first team title.

Birmingham finished with 236 points, while El Camino Real had 225. Sylmar was third with 209.50 points, and defending champion San Fernando was fourth with 157.50 points. The ''"three-sweep" started when Daniel Pena won the 195-pound division match over Pacific Palisades' Holland Herzfeld, 9-2. Then Manuel Villalobos only needed 51 seconds to pin Sylmar's Omar Arellano in the 220-pound division match.

That victory put Birmingham over the top. "This feels great," said Villalobos, a senior. "I have been wrestling for Birmingham one year, and this is my last (high school) year. It's a great experience being a City champion for Birmingham. And this is a new beginning for Birmingham wrestling. We're tough, we've changed things."

For good measure Jose Linan pinned Andrew De La Cruz of Sylmar in the evening's final match to win the 285-pound division title with two-tenths of a second left on the clock. "We made history," said Linan, a senior. "We worked hard for this and we deserve it."

Birmingham Coach John Mederios, in his third season, was quick to echo the sentiments of Villalobos and Linan regarding the rise of wrestling at the school. "(Saturday was) the start of a new dynasty. We're planning on winning a lot more," Mederios said. "We've got a lot of great kids on the team, we have like 65 kids, and we do a lot of offseason work. One of the keys to our success is how much time we put in."

Sylmar had created some early buzz by bolting to a quick lead midway through the preliminaries. The Spartans would qualify seven wrestlers in the finals the, most of any team.

Once the finals began, however, it was apparent either Birmingham or El Camino Real would win the team championship. The Conquistadors entered the title matches with a twopoint lead over the Patriots, 214.0 to 212.0. Sylmar had 189.50 points. Even if all seven Spartan wrestlers had won with pins, the team's max score would have been 221.50; they would have needed both Birmingham and ECR to be shut out in the finals, a highly unlikely scenario.

Even with the lead, ECR – which last won the title in 2011 (when San Fernando was on probation and unable to compete for the team championship that year) – had qualified only five wrestlers for the finals.

Birmingham had qualified six. That made it difficult for the Conquistadors to lock out the Patriots in the points race, which turned out to be correct. El Camino Real got its individual wins from Josh Adad, who overwhelmed Sylmar's Ryan Ruiz in the 120-pound division, 19-4; Ali Naser, who dominated Bell's Abraham Lopez in the 132-pound division, 21-6; and Brandon Kurosawa, who won the 145-pound division in a walkover after scheduled opponent, Joshua Melgar of Granada Hills, could not compete after being injured in his semifinal match.

Kurosawa was the last wrestler to score points for ECR. Seamus Sullivan, the team's last finalist, lost to Monroe's Andres Velasquez in the 160-pound division. After that, the Conquistadors could only watch and hope that Birmingham would falter.

But Birmingham did not go away.

Frank Berduo ignited the Pats' rally by pinning Sylmar's Richard Ruiz in the 152-pound division. Davit Stepanyan was pinned by Sylmar's Daniel Renovato in the 170-pound match, but Pena, Villalobos and Linan all delivered in the end. Birmingham's effort to find and develop wrestlers for the heavier divisions was the key to winning the City title, Mederios said.

"I noticed a while ago it doesn't take a whole lot to get a bigger kid to be successful," the coach said. "The [smaller] kids have often been wrestling their whole lives. A lot of the big kids are 'four-year' wrestlers; you can take a big kid as a freshman, teach them a couple of really good moves, really hone their skills and they can be good if they are mentally tough.

"That's why I focus on the big guys. And it's a lot easier to make them tough. We're going to be really good in the upper weights for a long time."

Although Sylmar was unable to move up from third, the Spartans did produce a pair of two-time champions for the first time in school history in Renovato and Edward Fierros, who defeated ECR's Ashkon Mesbah, 5-3, in the 138-pound division.

"This was another building block for our program," Coach Victor Solano said. "I think we've gotten a lot of people's respect and a lot of people's attention tonight."

San Fernando was not a factor this meet. The Tigers were both young and wounded; three wrestlers they were depending on were injured, and without them, San Fernando could not make a serious charge for the title.

But there were a couple of standout performances. Sergio Mendez won a third straight City title, pinning Abbas Khan of El Camino Real to win the 113-pound division. And Johnny Parada controlled Sam Holandez of Carson, 9-2, to win the 126-pound title.

"I think we'll be back if we put the work in," Parada said. "We've got a lot of new kids coming up and they have a chance of making the team better."

In other results, Carson's Spencer Go won the 106-pound division by pinning San Fernando's Juan Ramirez; and Sohrab Movahedi of Granada Hills pinned Armando Rodriguez of Sylmar to win the 182-pound division.

Last Updated on Thursday, 28 February 2013 06:10

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