By PHIL BARBER
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
SONOMA — All in all, Saturday was a pretty good day to be Rich Carnation.
The Windsor wrestling coach presided over his team’s third-place finish at the 30th annual Valley of the Moon Wrestling Classic, highest among the seven participating local teams. Meanwhile, two of his wrestlers were medaling 210 miles away at the prestigious Doc Buchanan Invitational in Clovis. And to top it all off, Santa Rosa police found Carnation’s truck — stolen a week earlier from a downtown parking garage.
“My wife was saying, ‘Oh, you just don’t remember where you left it,’ ” Carnation said. “Well, I was pretty sure it was on the third floor. They found it over off of some back road behind Coddingtown. I know I didn’t leave it there.”
The wrestling trumped the return of the vehicle. Three Windsor athletes claimed gold medals at the tournament at Sonoma Valley High: freshman Dominic DuCharme at 114 pounds, junior Trevor Silva at 139 and senior Isai Guzman at 171.
Silva was especially impressive over the two-day event, pinning all seven of his opponents in the first round.
“(Last year) I was one round away from placing at NCS,” Silva said after pinning Ukiah’s Chase Lynch in 51 seconds in the final match. “I actually lost to the kid who took fourth by one point. … I want to make it to state and win at least two matches.”
Guzman took a 12-6 decision over Foothill’s Arthur Knatt in his final. DuCharme, who looks like a harmless 11-year-old until the whistle blows, won by technical fall as he outpointed Foothill’s Blair Pacini in the 114-pound final.
“He’s a cute little baby face,” Carnation said. “And guys go out to wrestle him and they think, ‘Oh, I’m gonna wrestle this little young kid.’ And he beats the tar out of ’em.”
Foothill, out of Pleasanton, won the tournament with 248 points. Ralston Valley, whose wrestlers slept in sleeping bags on the Sonoma Valley gym floor for two nights after making the trek from Arvada, Colo., was second with 239.5, and Windsor was third with 234. Ukiah (202) and Sonoma Valley (189.5) were fifth and sixth, respectively, and other Redwood Empire entries included Analy (10th with 99), Rancho Cotate (13th with 85), Santa Rosa (17th with 64) and El Molino (25th with 23). The Sonoma JV squad entered the tournament to fill out brackets and finished 22nd, with 42 points.
Ukiah had one of the event’s deepest squads, but the Wildcats were the Buffalo Bills of the tournament, going 0-for-5 in gold-medal matches. Senior Stephen Serr (121 pounds), sophomore Joey Gradek (133), and juniors Chase Lynch (139), Dray Payne (153) and Pablo Gonzalez (286) all experienced defeat for the first time in their final matches.
“They gotta go back to basics,” Ukiah coach Gary Cavender said. “They gotta take people down. They gotta be able to go through our series. When it’s crunch time, you’ve gotta score.”
Gonzalez, the heavyweight, had beaten championship opponent Anthony Ishaq of Rodriguez earlier in the tournament, but couldn’t sweep him and was pinned in 2:29. Payne lost a particularly tough match to Rancho Cotate senior Joseph Clay. Payne tied it at 2-2 in the third round, only to fall behind 4-2 on Clay’s takedown with about 14 seconds left.
“I wrestled him at San Marin,” Clay said. “I pinned him there. But since then he’s gotten a lot tougher. He’s always been a tough kid, but he’s strong, and his coaches are great.”
Sonoma Valley capped its own tournament with a flourish, winning three gold medals on victories by seniors Sam Denning at 133 pounds, Jonny Amandoli at 196 and Aidan Lacy at 221.
Amandoli’s gold-medal match was a thriller. He stands 6-foot-2. His opponent, Alhambra’s Quentin Wright, is at least 6-6, one of the tallest wrestlers you’ll see. Amandoli went up 5-1, but Wright started to wrap him up with those long legs, and the Dragons senior was down 6-5 and gassed after two rounds. He fought back to take a 7-6 lead, only to be penalized a point for stalling deep into the third round.
Then came the overtime format: a 60-second round from neutral position, followed by two 30-second rounds with each wrestler choosing top or bottom. Still tied, they went to an ultimate tiebreaker, and Amendoli won without making a successful maneuver. He started on top and was awarded a point simply for preventing Wright from turning him.
“That was the hardest match I’ve ever been in,” Amandoli said.
Down in Clovis, in a tournament that welcomes not only the best wrestlers in California but many from around the West, Windsor’s Logan Fore and El Molino’s Taryn Christiansen each took fifth place — Fore at 126 pounds, and Christiansen at 195 — and the Jaguars’ Perez Perez was seventh at 106 pounds.
Carnation was especially proud of Fore, who was ranked No. 20 in California in his weight class and had to face No. 8 (twice), No. 9, No. 5 and No. 3 to earn his medal.
“It’s a huge accomplishment, and a testament to the hard work he’s put in,” Carnation said. “He’s one of our senior captains.”
There was a scary moment in the Valley of the Moon Tournament when El Molino freshman Samuel McDonnell, wrestling at 107 pounds, briefly lost consciousness in a match against Foothill’s Michael Belichak and had to be attended to by medical personnel. McDonnell was transported by ambulance to Sonoma Valley Hospital for a possible neck injury, but, according to coaches, was feeling much better a short time later.
You can reach Staff Writer Phil Barber at 521-5263 or email@example.com.