By TED SILLANPAA
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
FORESTVILLE — Fairy tales can become reality.
Healdsburg High senior Nick Newman, a 4-foot-5 dwarf, won his weight division and El Molino’s Brandon Rodenberger joined his father on the school’s sports Wall of Fame on Saturday, highlighting the Sonoma County League wrestling tournament.
Sonoma Valley rolled to the SCL team title with 179½ points, five league champs and 10 North Coast Section qualifiers.
The dreams that came true for Newman and Rodenberger, however, made for an unforgettable afternoon.
Newman pinned Analy’s Steven Schneider with 15 seconds left in the match to continue a magical senior season.
“Winning the league championship means I’m just like the rest of the guys,” the muscular, but diminutive, Newman said. “I’ve always believed that I can achieve anything I want to in life, and winning today shows that.”
Schneider gave Newman all he could handle.
“He’s a little bigger and more built than most of the guys I wrestle,” Newman said of the Analy standout who towered over him. “I’ve never wrestled him before. He’s tough. I wanted to go out in a big way as a senior, with a league title.”
The top three finishers in each weight division earn section tournament berths. The top finishers there move on the state championships.
It’s no real surprise that Newman believes his season is far from over.
“I feel like I can accomplish anything,” the senior said. “Anything. I’ll just give it my best effort.”
El Molino honors all-league athletes by featuring them on the wall in the school gymnasium. Daryl Rodenberger was an all-league football player for the Lions in 1980.
“He’s on the wall now, too,” Daryl said after son Brandon defeated Piner’s Tyler Mobbs, 19-4, at 134 pounds. “He’s always wanted to be on the wall with me … since he was a little kid.”
Mission accomplished for the younger Rodenberger.
“Getting on the wall like my dad is as big a deal as winning the championship. I’ve always dreamed of getting up there,” Brandon said.
Rodenberger dominated his match, letting his opponent up off the mat and then quickly scoring another takedown.
“The idea was to get a technical fall or just score a lot of points,” he said. “I’d never wrestled him before, but I like to wrestle standing up so that was my strategy.”
While Newman and Rodenberger achieved goals of a lifetime, Sonoma Valley continued a marvelous season by following the SCL dual meet title with the tourney victory.
Dragons Giordi Serafini (122), Sam Denning (128), Max Schimm (147), Jonny Amandoli (197) and Aidan Lacy (222) all captured weight class crowns.
“I didn’t expect that we’d send 10 kids to the North Coast Section meet,” Amandoli admitted after winning by pin in the second round. “It was a great day. We accomplished the goals we set for ourselves and more.”
Lacy was a first-round winner, needing just 88 seconds to pin his opponent. He found more joy in success of teammates who didn’t reach the championship round, but who finished third in their divisions and will move on to the NCS meet.
“I’m especially pumped, just ecstatic, that Chris Lohnes advanced at 108,” Lacy said. “He did a great job. Alex Ohan finished third for us at 172 and did just an amazing job. I’m happy for all of my teammates.”
The Dragons began the championship round with 161½ points, ahead of Analy at 146. Healdsburg was third at 142½ and joined Sonoma Valley to send seven wrestlers to the finals.
Newman got Healdsburg’s comeback bid started quickly. Serafini and Schimm, however, put Sonoma Valley in control to stay by defeating Healdsburg foes.
Serafini beat Greyhounds senior Drew Esquivel, 5-3, at 122. Schimm beat Jacob Sloma, 10-3, at 147.
“Wrestling a Healdsburg guy in that situation adds to the pressure, sure,” Schimm said. “Last time I only beat him (Sloma) by one point. This time I stopped trying to lock him up and started taking shots.”
Serafini continued a longstanding rivalry with Esquivel.
“I’ve beaten him twice and he’s beaten me twice,” the Sonoma Valley star said. “It can go either way when we wrestle.”
Healdsburg’s dominant duo in the middle weights sparkled as the Greyhounds finished second. Ian Black (154) and Dominic Merlo (162) each won by pin in the second round for the rebuilding Greyhounds.
“Black and I push each other and set the tempo for the younger guys on the team,” Merlo said after winning his first SCL title despite an outstanding career at Healdsburg wrestling behind some Empire greats. “I’m really lucky to have him to train with everyday. We sort of dictate the tempo for the team.”
Merlo pinned Analy’s Avery Carter 53 seconds into the second round.
“It’s just huge for me to win a league title, especially against a kid as tough as Avery,” Merlo said. “I expected to come out on top today and was able to capitalize on a couple of things. But Avery’s really competitive and I’m happy to get the win.”
El Molino’s Taryn Christiansen, a state meet qualifier last year, stayed on pace for a return trip, winning by technical fall at 184 pounds.
You can reach Staff Writer Ted Sillanpaa at 526-8623 or firstname.lastname@example.org.