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Cibola heavyweight gets comeback to spark win over Gila Ridge for city title
Brandon Firestone was on his way to another loss to Malachi Jones, having already been pinned three times this year by the Gila Ridge heavyweight.
But the Cibola heavyweight, five seconds from a 13-4 loss, got a reversal and a pin as the buzzer sounded.
It didn't just reverse the match — it reversed the dual against the Hawks and the city championship as well.
Cibola topped Gila Ridge 36-29 in what turned out to be the first-place dual at the Yuma City Championships Wednesday at Cibola, making the Raiders winners all three years the event has been held.
“I love the team. They are my family,” Firestone said. “And it was a joy getting the win with them.”
As is the tradition with the two teams, the duel came down to the last match. Alexander Juarez pinned Colt Collier to not only give the Raiders the city title, but make Juarez one of six individual champions for the Raiders.
“We're still working toward the end of the year,” Cibola coach Mike Jankowski said. “We're still trying to get that state title home. We took care of business. We finished the year undefeated. It's always nice.”
Two matches earlier, the Raiders got a huge momentum swing with Firestone's win. All of his scoring until the reversal came on stalling calls on Jones. As Jones was heading for the four-point major win, Firestone found an opening and rolled over on top of Jones. The referee signaled the pin almost immediately after the reversal. The pin happened with one second left.
“Honestly, what did it for me was I looked at my sideline, I looked at the sight of all my teammates' faces, and they all just needed me there,” Firestone said. “I looked at Coach J, he pointed straight at his heart and said that's where it's at. I took it to my heart and got a pin. ... It was just a dream.”
Jankowski said that Firestone never gave up.
“He battled all the way to the end,” Jankowski said. “When he battles through like that, comes through with a pin with literally one second left, that's what we always talk about — fight until the bitter end. He did exactly that. If he doesn't win that match, we don't win.”
Firestone was not the champ at heavyweight — that honor went to Alex Varela of Yuma Catholic, competing in the city championship for the first time. That helped the Shamrocks take fourth, ahead of San Luis in fifth and Kofa in sixth.
“Last year when we didn't get invited, that got us going,” Varela said. “We took it as, ‘Oh, OK, they don't want to take us on.' It helped us bring the wood today.”
In addition to Juarez, Luis Nunez (132), Pierre Gaud (160), Vicente Guerrero (170), Sergio Contreras (182) and Cisco Reyes (195) won titles for the Raiders.
Cibola was short-handed, missing a pair of wrestlers eyeing state titles in Mark Cruz and Isaac Camarillo. Also, Andres Gandara missed weight, forcing a lineup shift that resulted in what could of been a costly forfeit at 120, the last schedule bout of the match.
“It meant a lot cause we were missing a few of our varsity guys,” Reyes said. “We had to step up, some of us captains, and that's what we did to get the win.”
Individual champs for the Hawks were Nathan Mendivil (106), Austin Gerber (120), Curtis Cox (126), Levi Riley (138), Isaac Saenz (145) and Joseph Varela (152).
Gila Ridge coach David King said he was happy with the way his wrestlers competed, but felt they did better last week against Cibola, a match the Raiders narrowly won. He also said the loss to the Raiders Wednesday wasn't because of any one match.
“It's disappointing but there were still two matches after that we could have finished,” King said. “It's tough to blame it on one match. Obviously, Jones is kicking himself, and he probably should be. Hopefully it fires him up for sectionals next week. But it's hard to pin it on any one match. A couple of kids could have done the job they didn't do and we would have been alright.”
The other individual champion was Yuma High's Andreus Gomez, winning at 220 to help the Criminals finish third.
“It wasn't my best, but it was a well accomplished day,” Gomez said. “It's pretty awesome (to be a city champ.) I'm a little depressed I lost to Cibola again.”
Gomez's weight class was the only one that didn't have a wrestler go perfect. An injury to Cibola's Mark Siqueiros early made things interesting, with Gomez and San Luis' Carlos Uriquio going 4-1 and Siqueiros' replacement, Fabian Gutierrez, going 3-1. Gomez beat Uriquio in their bout.
Yuma High coach Jeff Welsing said he was disappointed in the scores against the top two teams, 67-9 to Gila Ridge and 66-9 to Cibola.
“My expectations were to beat San Luis, beat Kofa, beat Yuma Catholic,” said Welsing, something his team did 56-15, 60-12 and 49-27, respectively. “I hoped we'd at least compete against Cibola and Gila Ridge. Cibola had four, five guys out today and we just got destroyed. Then we face Gila Ridge and just get destroyed. I mean, one of my varsity guys loses to one of their JV guys by tech fall. I don't know what to say. I want to stay positive, but going into the last week and a half of the year today was a big step backwards.”
Welsing said his team has been battling sickness, and Kodi Doerr was out at 103. But he said that wasn't an excuse for why the team lost.
“Up to this point I thought we were going in the right direction, moving forward,” Welsing said. “But today we took about 15 steps backwards. We didn't really wrestle real well.”
Individual City Champions
106 — Nathan Mendivil, Gila Ridge
113 — Alexander Juarez, Cibola
120 — Austin Gerber, Gila Ridge
126 — Curtis Cox, Gila Ridge
132 — Luis Nunez, Cibola
138 — Levi Riley, Gila Ridge
145 — Isaac Saenz, Gila Ridge
152 — Joseph Varela, Gila Ridge
160 — Pierre Gaud, Cibola
170 — Vicente Gurrero, Cibola
182 — Sergio Contreras, Cibola
195 — Cisco Reyes, Cibola
220 — Andreus Gomez, Yuma High
HWT — Alex Varela, Yuma Catholic