The stage was perfectly set for the CIF Southern Section Division 4 boys’ wrestling championship match on Saturday at Millikan High. Top-seeded South Torrance came to Long Beach with its senior-heavy team to take on the underdog Rams in front of a knowledgeable and loud crowd. The Spartans took an early lead, and although Millikan pulled to within four points with two matches left, South Torrance held on win 42-28.
“I think we pushed every match,” Millikan coach Marshall Thompson said. “There were a lot of matches decided by points and that shows the wrestlers were evenly matched.”
Millikan trailed 26-4 when Nathan Gomez (220 pounds) and Santos Salas (285 pounds) both won via pin to cut into the lead. Pins from Alister Castillo (113 pounds) and Gavin Laverde (120 pounds) pulled the Rams within four points, but South Torrance bounced back to win the last two matches of the day.
“The kids who didn’t pull through are so disappointed with themselves and I was trying to tell them that I’m proud of every one of them and the effort they gave,” Thompson said. “I think we showed that we have a good tough team and a young team. We only have four seniors.”
This would’ve been Millikan’s first CIF title since 2010.
Millikan’s top wrestler Trevor Thompson was the first to take the mat at 138 pounds, and he came back to force overtime, but lost on a takedown. Kydyn Lima gave the Rams a 4-3 lead with a 10-4 points victory at 145 pounds.
South Torrance won the next five matches, but only one via pin. That set up the crowd to get extra loud of the thrilling Gomez match that featured a few tosses and near falls. The junior had been moved up a weight class for the postseason.
“He’s a believer,” Thompson said of Gomez. “When I tell him something he believes me. I had talked to him before the match about it, I was thinking about moving him up a weight and he’d have a better shot. I went over to him and said, ‘We need a pin right now and I know you can do it.’ He said ‘Okay.’ That was in his head the whole time, he was going to pin this guy one way or another. And then he got it. With that mindset and attitude I think he’s going to be amazing next year.”
Gomez was able to pin his opponent early in the second round.
“I expected a really good fight and it was,” Gomez said. “When his arm was too far over I was able to grab it and roll. After the second time I knew that was my secret to pinning him.”
Gomez added that he really appreciates being able to compete during his junior season and get some invaluable experience.
“We went from not having a season to having a pretty good season so there’s not a lot more I could ask for,” Gomez said. “Our team is just solid. We all care for one another and help one another, especially when we practice. Being back with the team has been pretty good.”
“We never thought we were going to get a season so in a way this is really a blessing for us,” Thompson said. “These kids got to have some fulfillment, especially for the seniors… but the plaque that we got today is not the one we want next year. I know these kids are going to work hard and our team is going to get better. I like our chances with our team next year.”