Archived Story

Friday, January 16, 2004

Aztecs finish strong

By JOE A. MARTINEZ/Sports Editor

BARSTOW -- Perseverance definitely pays off -- just ask the Barstow High wrestling team.

Story Photo

Photo by Steve Saenz
Barstow's Kenny Bubier has the advantage over Victor Valley's Chalupa Orellana in their 189lbs match. Bubier pinned Orellana in 1-minute, 50 seconds in the Aztecs victory over the Jackrabbits in the Desert Sky League meet Thursday night.

After being pinned in its first three matches of the night on Thursday, Barstow rallied back to defeat visiting Victor Valley, 40-26.

The win sets up an undefeated showdown with Granite Hills next week -- a showdown that will likely determine the championship of the Desert Sky League.

And nobody knows it more than Barstow coach Aaron Miller.

"I think it's going to be pretty close," Miller said of the match with the Cougars. "It's going to be up to our guys, whoever has the most heart. I think Granite Hills is going to be our biggest challenge and other than that we should go to CIF team duals."

The Jackrabbits started off on a tear, reeling off three straight pins with heavyweight Mickey Gonzales, 103-pound wrestler Chuck Johnson and the 112-pound Jarrett Zubiate all pinning their opponents in the first period to jump out to an 18-0 lead.

J.R. Reyes won by forfeit to stop the Aztecs' bleeding before Sam Barnhart battled his way to a three period victory as the sophomore outlasted Kevin Arreola with an 18-10 win in the 125-pound weight class.

Barnhart's victory opened the flood gates as Barstow won nine of the final 11 matches.

"We've been working hard all week so it feels really good to come back and win after that Sultana match last week," Barnhart said. "I'm really feeling good about this match. It really boosted my confidence."

Aztecs' 130-pound wrestler Chris Sprowl bounced back after a disappointing loss last week in his match against Sultana.

It took the senior grappler just 56 seconds to dispatch Mike Hadland.

"I felt stronger this match and didn't have to cut weight so I was at my normal weight," Sprowl said. "This is how we wanted to start off league. We heard that they were a pretty good team this year, so now we're just looking for the other teams and going out there and beating them."

Travis Bonar kept up the intensity in his 135-pound match as he also pinned his opponent, Cesar Chavarin, 1-minute, 17 seconds into the first period.

Bonar was pleased with the pin, but was looking to work more on his moves.

"It was a good win, but I was kind of disappointed that I didn't get to wrestle my match," Bonar said. "My guy just kind of fell over and I got stuck with the pin. I didn't get to actually work anything.

"I wanted the pin, but I wanted to do it my way, not with him falling over. But it's still a good pin. It helped the team a lot."

Barstow's 140-pound junior wrestler Raymond Smith pinned Johnny Lopez in 54 seconds to extend the Aztecs' lead to 27-17.

While Reyes' forfeit victory started the six match win streak for the Aztecs, fittingly it ended with David Powell awarded a forfeit win.

Alex Padilla nearly pulled out a win over Jackrabbits' 160-pound wrestler Isaac Ramirez in the closing seconds.

Trailing 7-6, Padilla had Ramirez in position for a near fall with 15 seconds remaining in the match and needed one more count from the official to gain the three points.

Ramirez, though, fought out of the hold and escaped to win the match 9-7 and more importantly pull Victor Valley within seven points of the lead with three matches remaining.

And then Nathan Burnau took center stage for the Aztecs.

Burnau continued to impress as the senior manhandled his way to a decisive, 13-1, triumph over Bryan Faron in the 171-pound class.

As easy as the task might look on paper, Burnau still admits he had his hands full with Faron.

"I went out there and they told me I needed a pin, but the kid did every trick in the books and stuck in there," Burnau said.

Kenny Bubier capped off the pinfest in the 189-pound class by dropping Victor Valley's Chalupa Orellana, 1:50 of the first period, his second pin in as many weeks.

"I'm just trying to take league this year and training hard to do it," Bubier said. "It feels good, especially in front of the home crowd. I didn't want to disappoint them.

"I think we're going to take league this year especially after we lost by forfeit last year to Silverado. We need to earn the championship back and get our respect back."

Wrestling in just his second match ever, Barstow's 215-pound wrestler James Merlini dazzled his way to a well-earned 12-7 decision over Jeremiah Agnew to cap off the Aztecs' evening.

Still learning the sport, Merlini was proud of his effort.

"I think I held up pretty well," Merlini said. "I'm still a little out of shape. I'm just trying to give it my all. This is my last year of high school and I want to go out with a bang."

And beating the Jackrabbits?

"We're always satisfied with a win over Victorville in anything," Merlini added.

Barstow wrestlers Chris Martinez, Bonar, Burnau and Merlini were all members this year's Aztecs' football team that defeated Victor Valley, 14-0, to reclaim the coveted Ax.

Miller was happy with the way his team bounced back after losing last week and looks to keep improving.

"They showed a lot more tonight than they did last week, but we still need to pick it up in a few areas," Miller said. "Other than that we should do pretty well.

"Most of the guys our lower weights been wrestling have been pretty tough. The guy Fuzie wrestled tonight is solid. He's been wrestling some pretty tough guys, but he should be all right the rest of the season."

Burnau added that the win was nice, but right now the only thing that matters to Barstow is Granite Hills.

"Granite Hills is going to be the match this year," the senior said. "We're underdogs every year against them and we always pull through so who knows what's going to happen."

The showdown with the Cougars will be at Granite Hills at 7 p.m. on Thursday.

Joe A. Martinez can be reached at or 256-4124.

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