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Three established Santa Maria Valley boys wrestling programs' squads came up short against a CIF Los Angeles Section power at the Santa Maria Challenge Wednesday.

Balboa Birmingham defeated Santa Maria 58-10, Pioneer Valley 36-27 and Righetti 51-19 in this meet that began in the mid-afternoon and stretched into the evening at Santa Maria's Wilson Gym.

All three Santa Maria Valley teams defeated Hanford West. Righetti defeated the Huskies 45-23, Santa Maria won 48-23 and Pioneer Valley won 49-25.

None of the Santa Maria Valley squads wrestled against each other, and Birmingham did not wrestle against Hanford West. No official tournament winner was named.

The Patriots lost three wrestlers to graduation from the 2016-17 team that finished second to San Fernando by a point in the Los Angeles Section finals. Santa Maria, Righetti and Pioneer Valley all compete in the CIF's Southern Section.

At the L.A. Section finals, "We were ahead of San Fernando by a point, they tied it up and then they got a stalling point to win it," Birmingham coach James Medeiros said ruefully.

"We beat them in the (sectional) duals, though. We won the duals."

The Santa Maria Challenge marked the season debut for the three Valley teams. The Patriots had already competed twice before they wrestled in the Santa Maria Challenge.

"We won at the Turkey Duals that we hosted, and we won at the (Mission Hills) Alemany Four-Way Meet," said Medeiros.

The Birmingham-Pioneer Valley dual came down to the final match.

Birmingham led 30-24 going into the penultimate match, and the Patriots seemed about to clinch it when Pioneer Valley heavyweight Elias Zepeda fell behind 8-7 with 10 seconds left.

Zepeda scored a two-point takedown with less than two seconds left. Apparently thinking the match was over, Zepeda seemed to start to celebrate — and then the Birmingham wrestler scored a point on an escape to tie the match up.

Zepeda scored a two-point take down in overtime to secure the win and three team points for Pioneer Valley to cut the Panthers' deficit to 30-27.

Adrian Calderon, at 106 pounds, secured the win for the Patriots with a pin.

The Santa Maria Challenge featured Righetti senior Issaya Finley. Finley, who won both of his matches at 195 pounds, won the PAC 8 League Championship at 182 last year.

He also won at the sectional finals. Finley finished fifth at the sectional Masters Meet and qualified for the state meet.

"We think Issaya might end up wrestling at 182 again. We're not sure yet," said Righetti coach Andrew Domingues.

"I thought it went pretty well. I thought our guys wrestled with pride. I thought they wrestled aggressively, which I really liked."

Kent Olson is Pioneer Valley's wrestling coach this year. He took over for former long-time Panthers' wrestling coach Kevin Ilac, who stepped down.

"Kevin did a really good job with this program," said Olson. The Panthers were among the league powerhouses when Ilac was at the helm.

Olson has a lot of experience of his own. "I've coached for 43 years," he said. "I coached for 20 years at Lemoore High School, then I started the wrestling program at West Hills," a junior college in Lemoore.

"I had retired, then (officials) called me and asked if I wanted to coach here. I live in Lemoore. I commute from there to here."

Olson said, "This is what these early tournaments are for, to figure out mistakes and fix them. I thought our guys wrestled very well. Birmingham is a tough team. We put our second team in against Hanford West, and they did a good job and won."

One highlight for Santa Maria against Birmingham was Carlos Ramirez, with a 14-8 lead late in the third round, persevering to get the  win after it looked like he was going to get pinned.  

Pioneer Valley will host the Pete Duca Invitational Saturday.


Sports Reporter