16 Feb 19
REDDING — Baseball has the walk-off home run. Buzzer beaters are a staple of basketball. In football, game-winning field goals happen fairly often. It is exceedingly rare, however, for a wrestling tournament to be decided at the last moment.
Yet on Friday at the Northern Section Masters Wrestling Championships, Chico and Sutter High were in a two-way race for the team title, with Sutter holding a one-point lead going into the heavyweight bout between Chico’s Ben Allen and Joe Carrillo of Anderson.
Chico head coach Keith Rollins walked over to his wrestlers watching the match and quietly told them that if Allen were to win, the Panthers would clinch the championship. He purposefully told everyone except Allen, not wanting to add a bigger burden on the senior’s shoulders.
So Allen and Carrillo circled each other, both trying to figure how best to exploit the other’s technique. Midway through the first round, Allen took a shot at Carillo, briefly putting him on his back, before ending the period with a 4-0 lead.
Allen grabbed hold of Carrillo with his forearm extended and got on top of him halfway into the second round. He held on as the official slapped his hand to the ground at the 3 minute, 3-second mark.
The Panthers stormed the mat as if it was a buzzer beater. pic.twitter.com/jALDkK2lCd
— Will Denner (@WillCDenner) February 16, 2019
Allen had done it. The Panthers stormed the mat inside Redding Civic Auditorium to celebrate. It took him a second to realize the enormity of his pin.
“I had assumptions, but I didn’t know flat out that the tournament fell on that,” Allen said afterward.
“It’s just an amazing feeling. I won it for myself, but this team is my family, basically, and I won it for them too. And because of that, my family just won the Masters tournament.”
The win by fall earned Chico six additional points, putting its total at 207 over Sutter’s score of 202. Chico wrested away the title from Sutter after the Huskies won it in 2018. West Valley finished third with 138.5 points, Durham (126) took fourth and Foothill’s 112 points were ranked fifth.
The Panthers clinched the title thanks to Allen, though a number of others had a hand in the team’s triumph.
Bobby McCoy (182) joined Allen atop the podium, while Alex Rudkin (132), Mere Chavez (138) and Zach Soto (160) all placed second and qualified for the CIF State Wrestling Championships.
“We’ve been telling the team from the beginning of the year that this isn’t going to be one person; this is going to be a total joint effort,” Rollins said. “There’s no one guy who is more important than the next. Every single kid is going to play a part in us winning a Masters title, and that’s what happened.”
Chico led Sutter by 13 points entering the finals, but the Huskies proved early they weren’t going out quietly in pursuit of a second straight team title.
After Brody Dollins (106), Jimmy Heryford (113) and Billy Thornton (120) all won their finals matches, Sutter took a 198-197 lead over Chico.
The finals grew more tense as Rudkin lost by technical fall to West Valley’s Rocky Raby and Chavez lost a back-and-forth, 11-10 decision to Chester’s Bonner Montgomery. Soto then dropped a 4-2 decision to Sutter’s Zack Hancock, which gave the Huskies a five-point edge.
With both teams having two wrestlers left, McCoy won a 3-1 decision over Anderson’s Cody Crawford in a match that needed three overtime periods to decide a winner.
It seemed improbable that McCoy would score after his left ankle rolled and got stuck under Crawford as the two grappled near the outer circle. Crawford pulled ahead 1-0 on a second-round escape, then McCoy escaped in the third round to force overtime.
“I couldn’t do as much as I wanted to, I couldn’t proceed with how I wrestle,” McCoy said. “But I saw the same mindset of going out there and trying to win.”
Only adding to his pain, McCoy’s head knocked against the concrete as he fell out of bounds during overtime. But he stood up and kept going. With Crawford on his back, the Chico senior bucked him off and earned a match-clinching reversal in the third extra period.
Chico’s McCoy with a reversal in the final seconds of the 3rd OT to beat Anderson’s Crawford 3-1 for the 182 title #ShastaCountySports #norcalscores pic.twitter.com/xxevrEUfv3
— ShastaCountySports (@ShastaCoSports) February 16, 2019
“I had to pull my whole heart into it, go as hard as I can and give it everything I got. It could’ve been the last match my senior year of high school,” said McCoy, as his ankle rested on a chair wrapped in an ice bag.
McCoy’s win, followed by Big Valley’s Reagan Dahle (195) and Durham’s Jacob Christensen (220) both claiming wins over Sutter, set the stage for Allen’s decisive pin.
Area champions also included PV’s Jake Mora, Durham senior Ethan Ownby and the sophomore Christensen.
Both Ownby and Christensen were No. 1 seeds and both won their first Masters titles. For the senior Ownby, his win marked the culmination of a workmanlike offseason after he finished fourth at Masters last year, which held him out of state for a third year.
This time, he earned the No. 1 seed for Masters and won a 7-1 decision over West Valley’s Mateo Redfern.
“The more you put in, the more you’re going to get out of it,” Ownby said. “Me working through the offseason all the time, lifting weights every day after practice, running before practice … It just helps me a lot.”
Christensen, ranked fourth in the state, earned his second straight trip to the big dance with a 5-0 decision against Travis Tedder of Sutter.
Mora entered the tournament with the No. 3 seed after losing to top two seeds, Chester’s Callum Kremer and Gridley’s Dallas Stevens, earlier in the season. But the PV senior backed up his proclamation that he was hungriest for a title by beating both of them in come-from-behind fashions.
In the semifinals, Mora pulled ahead of Stevens 3-2 with an escape, but then Stevens came back in the third round with a reversal. Mora, however, stayed calm and earned a final reversal on Stevens for a 5-4 win by decision.
126 — In one of the toughest matches of the day so far, Jake Mora of @PVVikingNews gets a late reversal on Dallas Stevens of @GridleyHSSports to win a 5-4 decision and advance to the finals. Stevens pinned Mora last month in Corning. pic.twitter.com/js8TJ8v4bd
— Will Denner (@WillCDenner) February 15, 2019
Then in a rematch of last year’s final, Kremer claimed the first takedown and a 2-0 lead over Mora, but Mora scored seven straight points to win the title.
“I’ve been the No. 1 … the No. 2 and No.3 going for that spot,” Mora said. “This year I kind of just threw that all out of my mind … and just told myself ‘I’m the best wrestler in this tournament, and I want everybody to know.’”
Stevens, meanwhile, had to regroup quickly from the loss to Mora, and he did so with two wins in consolations.
Due to Mora’s finals win, which happened as Stevens wrestled Modoc’s Chance Galvin on the next mat over, the Gridley sophomore wrestled Kremer in the second-place match and beat him to advance to state.
“While I was wrestling, I had one eye on Mora the whole time, so I was pretty pumped seeing him win,” Stevens said.
Other finalists included PV’s Alex Pimentel, who upset No. 2 seed Trent Sonseng of Durham on Thursday, before moving on to the semifinals, where he pinned Orland’s Conner Garrison in the second round.
In the finals he lost to Foothill’s Earnest Wilson by a 7-2 decision, but still earned a state berth.
“It means so much; this is probably one of the happiest moments of my life,” Pimentel said after winning his semifinal match.
Orland freshman Liam Nelson advanced to the finals as the top seed before losing to Dollins. In the second-place match, Nelson was denied a state berth as Foothill’s Keaton Brilz claimed a win.
Corning took sixth as a team with 102 points, with a pair of third-place finishers in Chase Aulabaugh (152) and Tristan Bailey (160).
Paradise’s John Morelli earned Coach of the Year honors, while Heryford and Dahle shared Most Outstanding Wrestler honors with an equal number of votes.