- By Nathan Mollat Daily Journal Staff
It’s hard to imagine a time when Half Moon Bay and Terra Nova were not considered “rivals.”
But then again, wrestlers are a breed of their own.
“When I was in high school, our big (wrestling) rival was Oceana,” said Half Moon Bay head coach Tom Baker, a 1985 graduate who wrestled for the Cougars during his high school days.
Fast-forward to the 2000s and the Tigers-Cougars annual wrestling meet has become the hottest rivalry in the PAL. The two met Tuesday night in Pacifica with Half Moon Bay riding a 27-match winning streak in the PAL’s Bay Division and Terra Nova, with already one dual-meet loss, needing a win to stay in the chase for the regular-season title.
And for a few minutes, it looked as if the Tigers might pull the upset after Jared Albellera won his match at 147-pounds with a first-round pin. It was the Terra Nova’s third straight victory and gave the Tigers a 21-12 lead in the team score.
“We have young kids in there at the middle weights,” Baker said of his team’s lull. “That’s where [Terra Nova’s] strength is.”
Josh Mutto started the comeback for HMB (4-0 PAL Bay), needing just one minute and thirty seconds to pin his opponent at 154. That was followed by another pin by Everett Schafer at 162, which was good for another six team points and a 24-21 advantage over the Tigers — one the Cougars would not relinquish.
Juan Diaz-Marquez followed at 172 and while Terra Nova’s Max Blank avoided being stuck, Diaz-Marquez still managed to hold on for a 5-1 decision. After a scoreless first period, Diaz-Marquez took a 1-0 lead with an escape from the down position and quickly turned that into a 2-point takedown. Blank picked up his only point on an escape in the third round, closing to 3-1, but Diaz-Marquez earned a takedown in the final seconds to ice the victory, extending the Cougars’ team lead to 33-21.
HMB picked up another six points with a Tigers’ forfeit at 184, but Terra Nova’s Cas Grabowski gave the Tigers a glimmer of hope, picking up an 11-2 majority-decision win at 197. Grabowski toyed with his opponent, quickly getting a takedown and near-fall in the opening round. He started from the down position to start the second and used a slick flip move to quickly gain control. Two more takedowns gave him the dominant win and closed the Tigers’ gap to 33-25.
But the one thing that has plagued most teams in the PAL affected Terra Nova — not enough bodies at the heavy weights. In addition to forfeiting at 184, the Tigers had no one to go at 222 either — which was a double forfeit.
HMB’s Gerardo Penaloza then won by pin at heavyweight to close out the match.
“I have two guys over 190 pounds,” Guingona said. “It’s very difficult to field a full team.”
The Cougars opened the match with three straight wins. HMB’s Fernando Diaz-Marquez and Terra Nova’s Charlie Hilder were under the spotlight first and put on quite the show at 108. Hilder took an early 4-3 lead, but Diaz-Marquez finished the first period with a 2-point reversal and takedown that he transitioned into a 3-point near-fall for a 7-4 lead after one round.
Hilder closed to 7-6 with a 2-point reversal and takedown from the down position, but another five-point swing from Diaz-Marquez, a 2-point reversal and 3-point near-fall, to give him a 12-6 lead going into the final two minutes. Hilder got two more points on another reverse and takedown, but Diaz-Marquez rode out the rest of the round for the 12-8 decision.
Ivan Ramirez, who made his varsity dual-meet debut only a couple weeks ago, followed with arguably the most unlikely win of the night. After a scoreless first period, Thomas Rutledge slipped a Ramirez throw attempt, quickly took him down for the first two points of the match and rolled Ramirez into a 3-point near-fall.
Ramirez survived the rest of the second round before completely turning the tables on Rutledge in the third, coming up with the pin.
“We got really big wins by the little guys — Ramirez and (Fernando) Diaz-Marquez. He [Diaz-Marquez] had lost to that kid earlier this year by [pin],” Baker said. “Getting those two wins were big for us.”
Luis Alcala followed with HMB’s third win in a row at 122 before Terra Nova finally got onto the scoreboard. Jacob Valdez dominated his match at 128, eventually winning by fall 40 seconds into the second round. Tigers’ teammate Eddie Ruiz followed at 134 and put on one of the most dominant performances of the night, getting a takedown early and not letting up until he had posted a 9-2 win. That brought up Albellera’s win at 140 before the Cougars started their comeback.
So now that Baker has been a part of two big wrestling rivalries, is Half Moon Bay’s meeting with Terra Nova the highlight of the PAL season for the Cougars?
“Being an alumni, and all my staff are alumni, I’d say yes,” Baker said. “But as a head coach, I can’t say that. The biggest match is the next one.”