Valhalla wins wrestling tournament

January 27, 2002|By RICHARD MYERS, Sports Editor

HOLTVILLE — Wrestling may have been the main focus in Holtville for the past two days.

Two Imperial Valley wrestlers came away with individual championships, but there were more winners than those who were on the mat.

Also coming up victors were the people of Holtville, especially those involved with the wrestling program.

"The people are so nice here," said Jorge Mancillas, coach of East Lake High in Chula Vista. "They really take care of you."

Mancillas should know — he used to coach wrestling at Calexico.

It was a reunion of sorts, as several former coaches and wrestlers from the Imperial Valley returned with new teams.

In addition to Mancillas, former Holtville coach Gary Pederson made the trip home as coach of Shafter High near Bakersfield.

"It's six hours' travel for us," Pederson said, "and it's well worth it."

Pederson noted his team had the chance to compete in the Holtville tourney three years ago and they've been back ever since.


"The kids always request to come back," he said.

There are a couple of reasons why the Holtville tournament, now in its 30th season, is so popular, said Mike Johnston, tournament host and former Holtville wrestling coach. One is the weather.

"It's always sunny here," he said.

Another reason might surprise some.

"They always say we have good food here," Johnston added.

Perhaps the biggest reason why the Holtville tournament is so popular, besides the keen competition, is the hospitality.

"They do a good job hosting the kids," Mancillas said. For any teams that want it, the people of Holtville host wrestlers in their home.

They feed the wrestlers dinner Friday night after the first rounds of competition, put them up overnight in their homes and feed them breakfast in the morning, noted Holtville Athletic Director John Reschert.

More than 200 wrestlers competed in this year's tournament, with approximately 40 families serving as hosts, Johnston said.

"Most families keep hosting year after year," Reschert said, noting some of those families don't even have children in school any more.

"Valhalla always stays with the same family," Reschert continued.

Most families host just a few wrestlers, but Holtville agriculture teacher DeAnn Elmer ended up hosting an entire team this year — Mar Vista High — Reschert said.

Four Imperial Valley wrestlers made it to the championship match Saturday night.

Southwest High's Eddie Conner won at 154 pounds and Brawley Union High's Stephen Moreno was victorious at 137 pounds.

Brawley's Michael Soza finished second at 105 pounds while Brawley's Michael Duffy was second at 121 pounds.

Conner's match was especially interesting because he faced a familiar foe in the finals.

Alexis Cano of East Lake fell to Conner, 9-6. Cano used to live in the Valley and competed in the El Centro Junior Wrestling program before moving away.

Conner used a takedown and two-point near-fall to grab a 5-4 lead at the end of one period. A late takedown in the second period boosted Conner into a 7-5 lead heading into the third round.

Moreno put Valhalla High's Bobby Scott away in the third round. Leading 6-5, Moreno scored four takedowns in the final two minutes to pull away.

Soza lost a heartbreaker to Valhalla's Mark Ruiz, falling in the second overtime period. He fell behind 2-0 in the first period but used an escape and takedown to grab a 3-2 lead in the second round.

A penalty point for locked hands in the waning seconds allowed Ruiz to tie the match and send it into overtime. Ruiz won on an escape.

Duffy dropped a 6-2 decision to Hilltop High's Bryan Scambler. He trailed 6-0 before getting a late reversal.

Valhalla won the team trophy with 261.5 points. Brawley was second with 190, followed by Shafter (129.5), East Lake (125) and Hoover.

Valhalla's Dean Kinports was named the outstanding lower weight wrestler while Hoover's John Douglas was voted the top upper weight wrestler.

For more results, see Scoreboard on B5.

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