1/6/2014 5:57:00 PM Semi-final victories key to Lady Huskies success
Amanda Kinder pins Angel Reyes, of Warden, to advance to the semi-final round of the Othello Women's Invite. Photo by Bob Barrett.
By Bob Barrett Contributing writer
Santa brought the Lady Huskie wrestlers much needed mat time during last week's winter break as the squad hosted the Othello Invite Monday and traveled to Hanford for the Winter Cup Friday. A good performance in the semi-final round was the key to the girls' success during their invite. Five of the eight Lady Huskies competing in the semi-final round won to earn a berth in the championship round of Monday's invite. Tatum Sparks (145) and Rosa Pena (190) both won their title bout by pin while the other three Othello semi-final winners - Esmer Mendez (100), Kaylee Martinez (130) and Mariah DeLeon (137) - all lost their championship bout to finish as second-place medalists. "For the most part, I was pleased with how we wrestled Monday," girls coach J. J. Martinez said. "We were flat Saturday at Pasco during the Best of the West mix and match. Monday was a big turnaround." After a first-round bye, Sparks recorded first-period pins of Hannah Brown (Cheney) and Elsa Gonzalez (Kiona-Benton) to meet Warden's Ashley Martinez in the finals. Sparks continued her string of first period pins to walk off with the championship. "She doesn't have much competition on this side of the mountains, but she will be tested at the Kelso invite," Martinez said. Sparks traded decisions with Grandview's Desiree Zavala last year with Zavala beating Tatum in a match at Othello, Sparks winning 11-9 at the regional tournament and Zavala earning a 2-0 win at the Mat Classic final in the Tacoma Dome. The two became friends last summer while competing on the same Washington state team traveling to the national free-style tournament. Zavala is competing at 130 pounds this year and Sparks intends to compete at 137 for the post-season tournaments. Huskie freshman Rosa Pena (190) pinned Belen Torres (Sunnyside) in the semi-final round and followed that with a pin of Victoris Grayton (Wahluke) to earn her championship crown. "She has come a long way for a freshman," Martinez said. Willingness to take a shot and determination to fight off her back are two keys to her success, he said. "If you can shoot as a heavyweight, it will make a big difference because not many heavyweights do that," Martinez said. "She fights when she gets on her back like she did at the Warden tournament and that also makes a difference." With only six girls entered in the 100-pound bracket, Mendez had a first- and second-round bye. The Huskie freshman pinned Ayline Laguna (Wahluke) in the semi-final round but lost to Vanessa Morales, of Warden, in the final to finish in second place. "Esmer only weighs 89 pound so she has to work hard," Martinez said. When you are already giving up 11 pounds and facing opponents who might be five or more pounds overweight when they come off the mat, that is a lot of weight to give up as a novice competitor. Martinez pinned Martha Zunita (Connell) in the opening round, outscored Jade Smith (Pasco) in the semi-final but lost the championship final to Breanna Diaz (Royal) to earn her second-place award. DeLeon advanced with first- and second-round byes and a semi-final decision victory over Justina Borjas, of Sunnyside, to meet Jesenia Meza, of Mabton, for the 137-pound title. DeLeon lost by pin to finish in second place. Tori Zambrano, Nikki Velazquez and Amanda Kinder all bounced back from a semi-final round loss to win their consolation final and place third for the Lady Huskies. Zambrano outlasted Wahluke's Fatima Romero to record a 12-10 opening round victory but dropped her semi-final bout to Jennifer Cano (Pasco). Velasquez opened with a pin of Vaneza Gonzalez, of Wahluke, before dropping a 5-6 decision to Victoria Carrizales (Quincy). Kinder pinned Angel Reyes (Warden) in the quarter-final but lost to Maria Gonzalez (Wahluke) in the semi-final. Friday, the girls traveled to Hanford for a mix and match during the Winter Cup. Mendez went 2-0 and Sparks was 3-0. Zambrano won one match and lost a second match by three points to Grandview's Vianei Perez, who placed third at state at 112 last year. The Huskies will travel to the Sunnyside Invite Saturday, Jan. 4, before making a trip over the mountains for the Kelso Duals Friday, Jan 10. Martinez looks forward to the Kelso trip to see how his wrestlers stack up against the powers from the other side of the mountains. "We are not trying to beat Warden anymore," Martinez said. "Warden is not the team to beat. It is the Mt. Bakers and the Washougals and the White Rivers." More schools on the west side have girls wrestling programs and some of those teams have dominated the state tournament in previous years. "Warden and Othello are rebuilding," Martinez said. "We have a great freshman class. Warden has a great sophomore class. We compete against each other to get ready for the west side teams."