SOUTH PASADENA — Five bouts into the start of the Rio Hondo League wrestling season and South Pasadena High appeared unstoppable.
Yet, four bouts later, the title of league contender slipped a little as did the Tigers, who held back a surge from visiting Monrovia High before picking up a closer-than-expected 46-18 victory Thursday afternoon.
Up, 28-0, after five bouts, the match appeared all but a lock for the Tigers (1-0).
Yet, the Wildcats (0-1) launched a spirited rally started when senior Robert Sanchez delivered a pin at 138 pounds at 1:33 in the first period that was followed by two more falls from Monrovia 145-pounder Eric Zapata and 152-pounder Isaac Mungia.
All of a sudden, the Wildcats climbed within 28-18 with the 160-pound bout between Monrovia junior Isaiah Duran and Tigers senior Albert Estrada having additional meaning.
Both teams had already withdrawn from 182- and 192-pound bouts along with the heavyweight clash due to a lack of wrestlers, meaning that only three bouts and potentially as many as 18 points were still up for grabs.
Duran and Estrada then fought each other close early on, with Estrada leading, 2-0, after the first period thanks to a takedown.
Forty-five seconds into the second round, Estrada picked up a key near fall that put him in position 14 seconds later to clinch the match for South Pasadena with a pin as the Tigers took an unsurmountable 34-18 advantage.
“That was an important win,” said Barrone of the Estrada’s triumph. “We had some guys step up today.”
Estrada’s win was followed by pins from South Pasadena’s J.C. Limon (170 pounds) and Aaron Refoua (220 pounds) that ballooned the final score to 46-18.
South Pasadena (1-0) opened the match in dominating fashion with three straight pins and four through the first five bouts with falls from freshman Caleb St. Julian (106 pounds), junior Nick Min (113), Angel Amaral (120) and Barrone (132).
The Tigers’ lone non-pin may have come in the day’s most interesting bout as 126-pound sophomore Sam Benzoni recorded a 19-8 major decision over Monrovia sophomore Edwin Rodriguez.
At one point, Bezoni trailed, 5-2, after surrendering a takedown and near fall 1:30 into the first.
Yet, the sophomore rallied by picking up a reversal with nine seconds left in the first to pull within 5-4 and then took the lead for good in the second period by notching a near fall, a takedown and an escape to lead 10-5 heading into the third.
“I got sloppy with one of my moves, it wasn’t there and he took advantage,” Bezoni said. “But I was able to keep my composure, not get hyper and win my match.”