Despite several close bouts and even winning four, the Simon Sanchez High School Sharks’ boys’ wrestling team lost to the four-time defending champion Father Duenas Memorial School Friars, 50-16.
With the Friars winning four of Saturday’s matches at Guam High School in Agana Heights via forfeit, - in the 132, 195, 220, 285-pound divisions - right out of the gate, the Sharks’ task was daunting.
Embracing the challenge head-on, in the 160-pound division, the Sharks' Gareth Kho started to easily handle the Friars Ryan Gofigan.
After two rounds, the Shark led 9-1.
With 7.9 seconds in Round 3, the fiery Friar flipped over the Shark and pinned Kho.
“I knew that I had to dig deep if I wanted to win,” Gofigan said.
On the brink of a bitter loss, and with the bench firing in commands, Gofigan took a risk.
“We’re not usually supposed to reach over the head, but everyone was yelling, ‘reach over the head, reach over the head,’ so, I just grabbed over the head and just drove him.
“I got him on the ground, and I got the pin.”
Besides battling Kho, Gofigan battled self-doubt. For all but 8 seconds, Gofigan felt powerless against the powerful Kho.
“In the first round, you could feel the strength of the guy,” Gofigan said. “I was kind of de-motivated.”
“I really do believe that the first couple matches can really set the tone for a team,” said Friars’ head coach Terry Debold. “It can build momentum.”
“Ryan, it being his first year, a freshman wrestler, wasn’t necessarily coming into the program as the most athletic student,” Debold said. “But over the course of, maybe, the last eight weeks, ... it’s been all heart for him.
“Today was a culmination of his efforts.”
In the 170-pound weight class, two-time defending champion Tommy Pool battled Benjamin Fitial to a convincing Round 2 victory.
“I really respect my opponent,” Pool said. “He’s a fantastic wrestler. I’ve always respected him. … He’s really a great guy. I felt honored wrestling him.”
This season, in Pool’s previous bouts, he has manhandled the competition.
But, not against Fitial.
“He’s just good at getting off bottom,” Pool said. “If you give him a chance, he’ll get right out. His conditioning is fantastic. He has a no-stop attitude.”
Pool, a golf-convert who switched to the physical sport in his sophomore year, said that his deep respect for the coaching staff is a driving force.
“I really think our culture of having respectful wrestlers,” and “no horsing around” at practice makes the Friars’ wrestling program the island’s best, he said.
He added, “there’s no talking down towards people,” … and the team has “great morale.”
“We’re like a big family,” he said. “We care about each other deeply. During practice, we work as hard as we possibly can, find the best opponents we can, and we just try to climb up the ladder within our own team."
In the meet's fourth bout, in the 106-pound weight class, FD’s Alexander Hernandez defeated Caleb Santiago. Heading into Round 3, tied 4-4. Hernandez won a 7-5 decision.
In a battle of 113-pounders, it looked as if the Friars’ Keoni Lizama was going to secure the maroon-and-gold’s fifth straight win. But, with 10 seconds remaining in Round 3, the Sharks’ Ethan Aflleje, trailing most of the entire bout, won via decision.
Nabbing the Sharks’ second straight win, 44 seconds into Round 1, 120-pounder Juan Flores pinned Melvin Aniceto.
For the Sharks’ third win in a row, via decision, in the 126-pound division, Cody Gogue defeated Brian Canlas. Gogue, jumping out in front 8-3, after two rounds, secured a 14-6 win.
As the weight-class bouts increased, so did the Sharks’ intensity. Gavin Whitt, competing at 132 pounds, defeated Kaleb Gambala via an 11-4 decision.
Heading into the meet against the Sharks, Debold prepared his team for an epic battle.
“Sanchez, I knew was going to be a tough team,” he said. … “All the teams are doing really good. The wrestling has grown this particular season. With all the teams having a lot of wrestlers, the quality has improved.”
“As a whole, our team really came through,” he said. “It wasn’t the returnees - the guys you expect to win - it was the ones that you didn’t know if they were going to … that demonstrated their ability today.”