The Vintage High wrestling team used seven pins, a major decision and a forfeit to defeat American Canyon 46-30 in the final match of the day to win the 13th annual, and possibly final, King of the Valley Tournament at Justin-Siena’s Dan Clark Gym.
Napa High’s young squad downed Justin-Siena’s sparsely populated roster for third place in the tournament, which was without St. Helena for the first time as the Saints did not offer the sport this season.
The 120-pound bracket was chosen out of a hat to start the title dual, and Devin Garingarao (120) and Aaron Villa Carlos (132) gave American Canyon an early 12-4 lead by sandwiching second-period pins around a 16-4 major decision by Vintage’s Kolton Dikeman (126) over Zach Ferrer.
But the Crushers’ powerful middleweight wrestlers – Jesse Chaidez (138), Tucker Lanoue (145), Antonio Macedo (152) and Sam Carter (160) – strung together four straight pins for a 28-12 lead.
American Canyon’s Aviyen Ferreira (171) outlasted Aleko Smith in overtime, 4-2, to stop the Crushers’ run. But James Robert (182) and Renny Aguilar (195) added two more Vintage pins to make it 40-15.
A 5-3 decision by Jesus Sanchez (220), a pin by Lucas Gramlick (285) and a forfeit win by Elijah Beronilla (106) closed out the Wolves’, before a pin by Vintage’s Reece Imrie (113) closed it out.
American Canyon saw four wrestlers – Villa Carlos, Ferreira, Sanchez and Gramlick – win their weight classes to make the 14-member All-Valley team.
Justin-Siena co-coach Jason Guiducci told the other coaches before Monday’s tournament that this will be the last year of the King of the Valley, since American Canyon, Justin-Siena, Napa and Vintage will all be facing each other in the new Vine Valley Athletic League in the North Coast Section next season.
“When I made that announcement at the coach’s meeting, it didn’t seem to be met with approval. They were disappointed,” Guiducci said. “But the way we look at it, there used to be this amazing mystique to the King of the Valley because you had (MEL rivals) Napa and Vintage, and St. Helena, Justin and American Canyon, which are all from different conferences, so this would be the first time they’d see each other.
“(Starting next year), we’re going to know in league who the King of the Valley. As for us, we would be better suited to going to another tournament facing someone other than a league opponent.”
Wolves head coach Rick Manibusan didn’t seem too distraught about finishing second to Vintage for the second year in a row, after winning the tournament in 2016.
“Last year, we had a lot of veterans but we gave up a lot of forfeits. This year, we were younger but we were able to compete, so we’re as proud that we’re going to be able to do well next year, too,” he said.
Gramlick and Robert were the only ones to make the All-Valley Team for the third year in a row.
“We’re very proud of Lucas,” Manibusan said. “He’s come a long way in his four-year span here. He’d never wrestled before he came out as a freshman and now he’s ranked No. 12 in the state. He’s matured now. He understands. He’s a young man now. He knows there’s responsibilities and he knows his role now. He knows he has to step up to be a leader and a role model for everybody. There’s a lot on his shoulders right now, but he’s handling it very well.”
Villa Carlos and Sanchez are juniors who each made the All-Valley team for the second year in a row.
“Coming into the new year, we wanted to prepare Aaron for league and not burn out too fast,” Manibusan said. “He was very aggressive, and we wanted to slow him down. Right now, he has a nice pace and is doing what we wanted him to do. His plan today was good. He wrestled smart today.”
Manibusan said Ferreira, who also won 9-7 over Napa High’s Brady Bledsoe, has improved greatly in his senior season.
“He’s been behind people (in the lineup) before, and for him to grow into a leadership role is amazing,” the coach said. “He’s a true product of the program. He’s worked really hard to be where he’s at right now. In his overtime match with the Vintage kid, they were both gassed. I knew then why we do those sprints (in practice), because that’s where those suckers come in.”
Sanchez also went the distance against Napa High’s Benjamin Salas, pulling out a 3-2 win in a match where all the scoring was in the third period.
“If I had to pick two MVPs today,” Manibusan said, “they would be Jesus Sanchez and Aviyen Ferreira.”
Manibusan said the coaches were also happy with the performance of senior 160-pounder Joseph Brumm, a first-year wrestler who pinned Justin-Siena’s Nathan Lowenstein and lost just 8-1 to All-Valley honoree Wyatt Bruner of Napa High.
Also against Napa High, Mateo DelaFuente (113) won 11-8 and Garingarao won 6-5. Justin Del Rosario notched first-period pins against Napa High and Justin-Siena.
Lanoue wrestled for American Canyon the last two seasons before transferring to Vintage.
“I love both teams and both schools I’ve gone to,” he said. “I have no regrets going to American Canyon first and switching to here. The team (at Vintage) was really supportive and the coaching staff is great. Our camaraderie drives us. During practices we all help each other and encourage each other to do the best that we can.”
He said he didn’t know his American Canyon opponent, Davion Salanga, as many of the Wolves are new to their team.
“I wouldn’t really have much of a problem with it (if I did know them),” he said. “Wrestling is a sport where it doesn’t matter about the identity of someone. It’s about the skill, and if you go in there and work hard, the better wrestler usually wins.”
Manibusan is excited about the prospect of King of the Valley honors being decided by league matches starting next season.
“It won’t be just for bragging rights, but will have league and playoff implications, too,” he said.
Petaluma, which finished third in the American Canyon tournament on Saturday, one spot ahead of the Wolves, is the reigning Sonoma County League champion and looks to be the Napa County schools’ main competition in the VVAL next year.
“Petaluma right now is strong. I don’t know how strong they’re going to be next year, but know that the Napa schools are coming in and they’re a little nervous – just like us. We don’t’ know what we’re getting into, but you know what? We look forward to the challenge.”
On Jan. 10, the Wolves fell 69-9 to Benicia in a Solano County Athletic Conference match at home. Garingarao won at 126s and Gramlick at 285s.
Benicia won the JV match, 42-24, despite points earned by the Wolves’ Jason Hester (106), Gabriel Camacho (113), Justin Del Rosario (138) and Glenn Garduce (220).