By RICHARD J. MARCUSFOR THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
It was a rough start on Wednesday night for the Healdsburg wrestling team, but it was the finish that mattered most.
The Greyhounds (3-0) lost their first three individual matches and trailed 18-0 to host Piner (1-1) before rallying in the second half of the meet to win the final six matches and defeat the Prospectors 48-30 in a Sonoma County League match-up. The win assures Healdsburg at least a share of first place in the SCL.
“There were four or five matches that could have gone either way,” Healdsburg coach Scott Weidemier said. “We have more experience but it balanced out with us giving them two forfeits.”
Healdsburg gave away 12 points. forfeiting the 122-pound and 287-pound classifications. Of the 12 matches contested, the Greyhounds won seven.
“Healdsburg was more than one dimension whereas my team was struggling with the basics,” Piner coach Tony Albini said. “The middle of Scott’s team has more experience than we do.”
The match started with the 197-pound division. Joseph Christensen of Piner pinned Jesus Castro of Healdsburg in the first period. The Prospectors’ Nicholas Gray then pinned the Greyhounds’ Ricco Vasquez, also in the first period. Healdsburg’s forfeit at 287 pounds followed that, and Piner held an 18-0 lead.
The Greyhounds did not panic and relied on their core group of four experienced veterans to save the day. Two of those veterans, Nicholas Newman (108) and Andrew Esquivel (128), won their early matches to keep Healdsburg within shouting distance. Piner led 30-15 after eight matches.
Healdsburg then ran the table to win the final six matches (140, 147, 154, 162, 172 and 184 pounds). During the stretch the other two Healdsburg veterans won via pin — Ian Black at 154 and Dominic Merlo at 162.
“When you get pins you can make up points quickly,” Weidemier said. “That’s the heart of our lineup, 147 pounds through 162. But in a match like this where there are so many young guys you have to get contributions from so many places.”
Piner’s team has more than twice as many varsity wrestlers this year than last year when it only had six.
“Tony did a great job getting kids to come out to the mat this year,” said Weidemier, who has coached Healdsburg for more than 30 years.
Even with increased numbers to field a full squad, the Prospectors are still very young. The more experienced Greyhounds were able to exploit Piner’s youth, especially in the middle weights.
“I knew it was going to come down to the middle weights, Albini said. “I only have four returning wrestlers out of 14 (compared to eight for Healdsburg). More than half my team is first-year wrestlers. But we held our own pretty good.”