HomeSportsWrestling: Spartans Cap CIF Dual Meet Run With Historic Finish

Wrestling: Spartans Cap CIF Dual Meet Run With Historic Finish

With a historic berth to the semifinals of the CIF Southern Section Dual Meet Wrestling Championships on the line, the La Cañada boys’ wrestling team’s fate came down to their final two competitors facing an eight-point deficit against Bonita High in the Division III quarterfinal round.

The Spartans pulled within two points thanks to a first-round submission from La Cañada senior Clive Fernando, and it was up to senior Ben Riesberg to clinch the deciding match.
Riesberg scored a first-round pin at the 1:41 mark to send the Spartans to the semifinal round of the wrestling championships on Jan. 26 at Redondo Union High School.
“People didn’t expect this, maybe we didn’t even expect it, but it was just about focusing on wrestling well,” La Cañada coach Justin Luthey said. “We really didn’t put a ton of pressure on ourselves. We just wanted to go out and win that first match, and the wrestlers responded by wrestling loose and being excited.”
La Cañada, the No. 5 seed in Division III, opened up its tournament run with a 45-24 victory over North Torrance, and followed that up with a 40-36 win over Bonita in the quarterfinal round. However, in their first semifinal appearance, the Spartans were bested 50-12 by top-seeded Victor Valley in the final four of the Division III bracket.
“It was really cool to see two seniors end it out for us and make that history,” said Luthey, who added that many of the team’s supporters came out to cheer on the Spartans.
With the team championships wrapped up, the Spartans turn their focus to the Rio Hondo League finals, which are set for Friday, Feb. 2 at 1 p.m. at Monrovia High School.
League champions qualify to the CIF Southern Section Individual Wrestling Championships which will take place over two days starting Friday, Feb. 9 across six different school sites. Wrestlers will participate in the semifinal and championship matches on Saturday, Feb. 10.

Meanwhile, for the La Cañada girls’ wrestling team, the Spartans battled in their first-round 57-24 loss to San Clemente in the opening round of the Division I bracket.
Spartans junior Iris Rivas, who secured a second-round pin in her 170-pound matchup, said it was exciting to compete in Division I despite the early exit.
Rivas competed in the division as a freshman, and last season, helped the Spartans reach the semifinals in Division II competition. She added that mistakes hurt the team in their first-round matchup against San Clemente. However, Rivas remains confident for the next season.
“In the end, I think we can learn from that and do much better if we do end up back in Division I,” the junior said. “I definitely think we can make it further next year.”
The girls team can still earn a collective top finish in the CIF Individual Championships, Luthey said. A collective team plaque is awarded to the top three finishers based on a team score at the CIF individual championships. The girls team placed fourth last season.
“They felt like maybe there was a little bit of unfinished business, and it’s not the same as a team championship, but there’s still a lot of prestige,” Luthey said. “We always tell wrestlers that when you don’t get what you want, you go out and get the next best thing, so, for us, that’s the next best thing.”
Rivas shared the same outlook as Luthey when it came to the CIF individual competition. The junior said she will take a “cautious” approach going into it, and for team success, she said team support is key.
“I’ve been here already, but I just want to stick to what I know,” Rivas said. “I’m going to support my other teammates as well because I know some of them might be nervous for their matches because this is their first time competing for CIF or this is their last season competing for CIF. I want to be there for them just to encourage them.”
Seven winners propelled the Spartans boys in their first-round victory over North Torrance and it all started with Riesberg, who said he was tremendously nervous for his first-round matchup.
“I haven’t been wrestling my best in my first match, so I really wanted to get the first win out of the way,” Riesberg said. “After the first period, I felt confident because I was up by two and I could see that he was a lot more tired than I was.”
Fifteen seconds into the second round, Riesberg’s teammates started chanting, which encouraged the senior to go in for the kill with a double-leg move into a second-round submission.
Following Riesberg was senior Sid Pillai who won his 150-pound match by a 6-2 decision. Spartans sophomore Levi Goldworthy also won his 165-pound match by a 6-2 decision, and junior Michael Manzano came out victorious in his 126-pound match with a 4-2 decision.
La Cañada junior Dylan Baetsle came away with a first-round pin in his 190-pound matchup, senior Geoffrey Butler secured a second-round pin in his heavyweight bout and senior Sasha Kliegl won his 106-pound battle by pinning his counterpart in the third round.
Trailing by eight points against Bonita in the quarterfinal round, Fernando cut the deficit to 36-34 with a first-round pin in his 138-pound matchup. Riesberg followed and sealed the quarterfinal victory with a first-round submission.
Six other Spartans were victorious in their matches against their Bonita counterparts, three of which were won by decision: Goldsworthy a 10-2 victory, Baetsle an 8-5 triumph and Manzano a 6-0 win.
La Cañada junior Bryan Green scored a second-round pin in his 215-pound matchup, Butler topped his match with a third-round submission and Kliegl secured his victory with a first-round pin.
Three La Cañada grapplers won their Victor Valley matchups. Goldsworthy secured a second-round pin, Baetsle came away with a 4-3 decision, and a third-round takedown was the decider in Manzano’s 2-1 victory in a 120-pound bout.
For the Rio Hondo League finals, Riesberg’s game plan stays the same.
“I’m trying to get the first win out of the way, and from there, it’s not a free ride home, but it’s easier,” the senior said. “It gets the nerves out of the way. I’m really looking forward to doing my best.”
If successful at the league finals, it would be Riesberg’s first time competing at the CIF Individual Championships.
Including Rivas, there were four winners for the La Cañada girls’ team, all won by submission.
Spartans junior Angel Lee secured a first-round pin in her 120-pound bout, sophomore Vera Grivennikova pinned her opponent in the first round in her 190-pound match and sophomore Anna Kleineahlbrandt won her 235-pound battle through a first-round pin.

First published in the February 1 print issue of the Outlook Valley Sun.


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