HANFORD – The 2014 West Yosemite League wrestling season saw the end of an era as the Lemoore Tigers were finally unseated as WYL champions after a 19 year run at the top.
This year, the Tigers came back with a vengeance and once again recaptured the WYL championship by narrowly edging out second place Hanford by 1 1/2 points.
“This win feels great,” Lemoore coach Marcio Botelho said. “We knew this was going to be tough. We had Redwood, Hanford, and some great individuals from Golden West, Mt. Whitney and El D. It feels so good to come back and be champions. I can’t say enough about how proud I am of the kids on our team. It’s good to see, and it’s a great feeling. It was tough to see us lose after winning for so long, but coming back this was just really sweet. Hopefully this will lead to another run.”
In total, the Tigers had five finalists and three league champions.
Botelho was specifically impressed by freshman Jacob Gonzalves for his tenacity in winning the first league tournament of his young career. The importance of the win was not lost on Gonzalves.
“It was just a great experience and there is no word to describe this feeling,” said Gonzalves after his big win. “Knowing that I’m a freshman, and knowing that I have four more years is just crazy. To win at varsity being a freshman and knowing that I helped our senior class get the win as a team was awesome. We all did this together.”
Redwood was unsuccessful in its title defense, but still had a good showing and produced multiple individual champions while taking third place overall as a team.
This year’s individual champions from Redwood were Jon Fisher (115 pounds), Isaiah Torres (132), Jeff Kelly (185) and Aaron Watts (138).
Watts had a particularly memorable evening picking up his third league title in as many tries This puts him in the rarefied air of having a chance at being a four-time WYL champion.
“This was a big win for me because I know the hard work I’ve put in the room to get here,” said Watts. “You can ask any of my coaches and they will tell you that I put the work in to get where I’m at. My goal this year is to finally make it to state. It’s going to be tough at Divisionals and Masters, but I think if I wrestle at my best I can make it to state.”
Mt. Whitney also put in a solid effort with a fourth-place finish overall. The Pioneers were successful in getting Thomas Diaz, Grant Morris, and Will Torres to the finals in their respective weight classes. Torres defeated El Diamante’s Mariano Aldama 9-4 in the 147-pound final to become the Pioneers’ lone champion.
“Honestly this is one of the best feelings ever,” Torres said. “My freshman year I wrestled JV, sophomore year I went 0-2, junior year I didn’t make weight, and now I’m the champion as a senior. This just shows that hard work takes time and pays off.”
El Diamante took fifth place as a team and had two tournament champions in Jacob Delgado (120) and Enrique Padilla (170).
Golden West trailed behind in sixth place with two second-place finishes from Jared Post at 220 pounds and Cesar Delgado at heavyweight.
Up next is the Central Section Yosemite Divisionals, which takes place Feb. 20-21 in Lemoore.