San Marino wrestlings turns things around on La Canada
San Marino Titans knock off two-time reigning Rio Hondo League champion La Canada Spartans, 44-25, in opener.
San Marino's 170-pound senior Brian Chang pinned La Canada's Rick Lengua to give the Titans a 28 point lead. (Tim Berger/Staff Photographer / January 3, 2013)
The Titans may have come into the dual meet unranked in CIF Southern Section Division VI, but were confident they’d knock off the No. 4 team and two-time reigning league champion Spartans.
The confidence was well founded, as San Marino delivered an impressive 44-25 victory after winning eight of the 14 matches with five of the victories coming on pinfalls. It was a complete 180 from last year when La Cañada knocked off the Titans, 54-27, in the league finale to secure the league crown.
“We knew coming into it [the Spartans] were tough and had beat us before,” San Marino freshman and 113-pounder Evan Wick said, “but our lower weights are so good and we’re pretty stacked right now so we just knew we were going to come out with a win.”
Wick is a part of a new-look Titans team that includes five quality freshmen — twin brothers Evan and Zander Wick (126), Julian Flores (120), Aaron Padilla (132) and Tino Maese (195) — and a new coach in John Azevedo.
Azevedo, a former Olympian and NCAA champion, came to San Marino to co-coach alongside Joe Gallardo this season. He’d previously coached at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and Santa Ana Calvary Chapel Santa, which won seven CIF State titles under his leadership.
Azevedo was pleased with the Titans’ league debut and is optimistic about the future of the program.
“You want to come out and be at your best, make a statement,” Azevedo said. “It’s exciting for the kids, they start believing more when they win, perform well and fight. It’s just kind of the beginning of something new and hopefully great.”
The Titans (2-1, 1-0 in league) couldn’t have started the league season much better, winning the first four matches — three by pinfalls from sophomore Russell Chang (106), Evan and Flores and one by forfeit to take a 24-0 advantage out of the gate.
San Marino also picked up pinfall victories from 170-pound senior Brian Chang and Maese. Its remaining wins came on a major decision wins from junior Dominic Magana (138) and junior Adam Padilla (145).
La Cañada Coach Gavin Williams said he thought the victory will lead to San Marino winning the league title.
“I’m pretty sure, with those lower weights they’re going to buzz-saw most teams,” said Williams, adding the Spartans’ primary focus will now be on preparing for CIF Individuals.
The Spartans (0-1) couldn’t bounce back from San Marino’s quick flurry, as they struggled to pin the Titans and had to grind for most of their points.
Chris Skaggs got the Spartans on the board in the 132-pound match when he narrowly defeated Aaron Padilla, another Titans freshman, 8-5, to cut the deficit to 24-3.
The Spartans got their first decisive win when their 152-pounder Michael Greenberg picked up a major decision win, 14-3, over San Marino’s Daniel Walsh, but the Titans lead had grown to 25, 32-7.
The Titans wrapped up the win two matches later when Chang pinned La Cañada’s Rick Lengua 57 seconds into the second period to give San Marino a 28-point lead, 38-10, with four matches remaining.
“The difference this year is our increase in fight, it’s just our attitude,” Chang said. “We invested so much of our time, during winter break we had practice two times a day when most teams weren’t practicing. It’s just that offseason grind we committed ourselves to and you can immediately see the results.”
Daniel Badie (160) and Alex Bache (182) each pulled out 5-4 wins for the Spartans, who managed to finish on a bit of a high note with brothers Edwin Padilla and Guillermo Padilla winning the last two matches of the night with pins.
“Hopefully this will tell our team that we all need to show up and work much harder in practice,” Bache said. “What this will mean is we’ll have more focus on CIF Individuals than league or a team thing.”
The result meant something completely different for the Titans.
“It’s definitely a big step, they were definitely one of the best teams in our league,” Evan said. “I think we can go on to win CIF and even State maybe.”