MONROVIA — In a new-look Rio Hondo League that included a new favorite in San Marino High and two new schools in Hoover and St. Paul, La Cañada managed to show it’s still near the top of the group Saturday at league individual finals.
Nine Spartans advanced out of the one-day tournament at Santa Fe Middle School in Monrovia, as the top-three wrestlers in each of the 14 weight classes earned a trip to CIF Individuals. It was second-best to San Marino, which had 12 move on, including six league champions and three second- and third-place finishers each.
Once again, it was La Cañada's upper weights that shined brightest Saturday, as three of its four league champions – Anthony Landeros (132 pounds) Alex Bache (170), Peter Garfield (195) and Guillermo Padilla (heavyweight) – came at 170 or higher.
Padilla was the only Spartan to win a league title on a pin Saturday, as he pressed both shoulders of San Marino's Jonathan Yau on the mat for the fall 16 seconds into the final period.
It was the fourth time the two had faced each other, said Padilla, who called Yau a friend.
“I've won every time, but we had some really close ones my first year,” Padilla said. “We're pretty close friends, but it's wrestling, you know, once you step on the mat there's no friends.”
Padilla is looking to advance to CIF Masters with a top-five finish at CIF Individuals. The junior just missed the cut by taking sixth at individuals last season, and this year he won't have the luxury of flying under the radar.
“I am looking for more improvement,” Padilla said. “I have been wrestling with my [assistant] coach Marty [Vardanian] and my brother [Edwin Padilla] – we've been going at it tooth and nail trying to get up to the Masters level.
“It's going to be tough because more people know about me, so they're going to be watching out, studying me.”
Bache and Garfield each won their matches by decision against San Marino's Michael Scott, 6-0, and Monrovia's Angel Gonzalez, 9-4, respectively.
“Personally, I would've preferred our team to win [league] again,” Bache said. “Hopefully, I can lead by example so next year our team can get better.”
When it comes to CIF Individuals, the junior said he hopes to make it to the second day.
“I mean, it'd be a blessing if I could make it to fifth in CIF, but my major goal is to make it to the second day,” he said.
One of the most exciting matches of the day came from Landeros and South Pasadena's Charlie Barrone, who defeated Landeros, 5-2, in a league dual after he reaggravated a shoulder injury.
Landeros wouldn't be denied Saturday. He led by as many as 4-0 after getting a takedown in the first and second period, but Barrone kept it close, 4-2, with a takedown of his own with 20 seconds left in the second period.
It appeared the match was headed for overtime, as Barrone brought Landeros down to his knees with about 30 seconds to go in regulation and just needed to circle around him to get two more points.
Knowing this, Landeros latched onto Barrone's legs and held on, not allowing him to get around.
“That last moment when I was grabbing his legs, I knew that was going to be do or die. If I didn't hold on he was going to win,” said Landeros, stressing he couldn't let the match go into overtime. “It was very important because I put everything I had into those six minutes, it would have been very difficult to continue.”
Landeros not only held on, but notched another takedown of his own for the 6-2 win.
“That was just the cherry on top of the ice cream, you know? That really topped it,” he said. “As soon as I got him on his back I knew the match was over.”
The Spartans also had two second-place finishers in Chris Skaggs (126) and Lucas Drill (182) and three wrestlers take home third place. Skaggs fell to top-seeded freshman from San Marino Zander Wick, 21-4. Drill fell to South Pasadena's Aaron Refuoa, 6-0.
La Cañada also had three wrestlers win their third-place matches and move on to CIF Individuals. Sean Consolo (106) did so with a pin of St. Paul's Joell Navarro in the third period, Andrew Saraceda (113) notched a 6-0 win over Hoover's Arianna Caban and Edwin Padilla (220) pinned San Marino's Nick Telleria.