By PHIL BARBER
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
FORESTVILLE — Ukiah wrestling coach Gary Cavender was thrilled with his team’s effort Saturday at the North Coast Section Dual Team Championships at El Molino High. He was satisfied with the venue — primarily the El Mo gym — and generally happy about a long, sweaty day of grappling.
Yet Cavender left the event fairly steamed, his ire aimed at Windsor’s decision to hold a couple of its top wrestlers out of the final round.
“It’s called ducking: D-U-C-K-I-N-G,” Cavender said. “They ducked us at 172 and they ducked us at heavyweight.”
Ducking or not, heavily favored Windsor took care of business and captured the Division 2 Redwood Empire competition by dispatching Ukiah 52-21 in the final.
Second seed Ukiah settled for second place, while No. 3 Maria Carrillo made it to the semifinals of the winners’ bracket before suffering back-to-back losses to finish back in the pack. Healdsburg beat El Molino before losing twice; the host Lions and Sonoma Valley each went 0-2.
In the Division 3 competition, Upper Lake won a thrilling final round, 39-35 over McKinleyville, to claim its fifth consecutive NCS dual championship. Kelseyville lost in the final of the consolation bracket, while Fort Bragg went 1-2.
The bad feelings in the large-school division came after Windsor coach Rich Carnation bumped one of his better wrestlers, Isai Guzman, from 172 to 184 pounds, substituting Beau Thompson at 172, then withdrew heavyweight Salvador Carrillo to forfeit the final match.
“We have a couple of guys still recovering, getting healthier,” Carnation explained. “From here we go to league championships to section championships to state. We want all our kids ready.”
Carnation had the luxury of adjusting his lineup because his first six wrestlers, from 108 pounds through 140, all beat their Ukiah opponents.
Still, it didn’t sit well with Cavender, who noted that his heavyweight, Pablo Gonzalez, had previously pinned Carrillo but was ranked lower, giving Gonzalez something to prove Saturday.
“It’s a lack of respect,” Cavender said. “All our kids wrestled. We respected (Windsor) because they’re talented and because they deserved respect. It’s not right. People came here to see the best wrestle the best.”
As a team, no one was close to the Jaguars. They outpointed Healdsburg 71-6 and Terra Linda 57-6 before taking care of Ukiah.
“We wrestled three different schools, and we faced the best,” said Carnation, an El Molino grad whose high school wrestling photos still hang in the Lions’ gym. “We wrestled tough.”
The final round was sort of a mystery match-up. Because of movement up and down weight classes by both Windsor and Ukiah, no fewer than seven of the 14 matches were first-time confrontations; three other sets of opponents had met just once before.
The Jaguars got important wins right out of the chute by Perez Perez, who decisioned Stephen Serr 16-4 at 115 pounds; Noah Au-Yeung, who beat David Watson 22-7 at 122 pounds; and Logan Fore, who pinned Joey Gradek in the second round at 128 pounds.
It was the next match that allowed Carnation to breathe a sigh of relief. Ukiah’s Chase Lynch dropped down a division to face Windsor’s Seth Trunick at 134. Lynch appeared to hurt his right shoulder twice during the match, but fought viciously, and Trunick finally held on for a 9-8 victory.
“It’s important,” Au-Yeung said of the Jaguars’ title, “but we have bigger goals, starting next week.”
The North Bay League Championships begin Feb. 16 in Ukiah, with the NCS Championships a week after that in Newark.
The most disappointed team Saturday might have been Sonoma Valley, which was missing wrestlers in five weight classes. That included 197-pound star Jonny Amandoli, a prospective college football player who was visiting Humboldt State on Saturday.
“I think we’d have a chance to be top-three with a full lineup,” Sonoma coach Kyle Baird said.
Upper Lake, now officially a small-school dynasty, had no such problem as it surpassed 50 consecutive dual-meet victories. Not that the latest came easy. The Cougars needed a win by 220-pounder Joe Valdez in the final match against McKinleyville to take first place. They got it. Ward Beecher (134 pounds), Travis Coleman (140) and Tyler Banks (147) also had big wins for Upper Lake.
Only De La Salle, which won its seventh straight Division 1 East Bay dual championship Saturday, has put together a longer streak than Upper Lake’s.
You can reach Staff Writer
Phil Barber at 521-5263 or firstname.lastname@example.org.