Just three days after a heartbreaking loss to South Torrance in the CIF Southern Section Division 4 championship, Millikan bounced back to win 11 of the 14 individual titles at the Moore League finals on Saturday at Lakewood High.
“I think you might’ve seen a little bit of frustration from Wednesday,” Millikan coach Marshall Thompson said. “They were ready to go and most of them wrestled really well.”
Millikan team captain Ash Gomez (170 pounds) was one of nine Rams to win their title via pin.
“It really lit a fire under me,” Gomez said of the CIF loss. “I was kind of disappointed in how I did but now I have a chance individually to go to CIF, Masters and maybe State. It really pushed me this week.”
Fellow Millikan team captain Kydyn Lima (152 pounds) said he’s thrilled to be back to a normal season finale after winning the league title the last two years.
“I’m so glad everything is back,” Lima said. “It was really nice to have a crowd, you could really feel the energy. When someone wins and everybody is sharing it, it’s awesome.”
“You can wrestle just as hard in practice and it’s not going to feel as rewarding or stressful,” Gomez said. “When there is a crowd there you can feel that pressure on you to do your best. That’s when the mental training comes in.”
Long Beach Poly’s freshman Nathan Itchon had a great day of wrestling, but didn’t have an opponent at 106 pounds so he took the title uncontested. The Jackrabbits picked up a second title at 113 pounds when sophomore Eduardo Sandoval pinned Millikan’s Daniel Kroll in the first round. Sandoval was the runner up last year.
Millikan brothers Gavin and Diego Laverde picked up victories via pin at 120 pounds and 126 pounds after defeating Poly’s Jeremy Lavery and Derick Marquez, respectively. This is Gavin’s third straight title, and Diego’s second in his career.
At 132 pounds, Millikan senior Samuel Winters took an early lead over Poly’s Ethan Irizarry and held on for a 6-2 victory and his second league title.
Millikan junior Alister Castillo pinned Poly’s Joseph Christenson in the first period at 138 pounds, Millikan junior Alexander Lovato pinned Wilson’s Michael Bozoff in the first period at 145 pounds, and Lima pinned Wilson’s Eden-Jay Khamnoy in the first period at 152 pounds. Castillo is a two-time league champion.
At 160 pounds, Millikan senior Jake Pallares had a 9-1 lead with a minute left in the third period when he pinned Lakewood’s Blake Bindman to win a third league title.
Gomez was leading 9-2 when he pinned Lakewood’s Ryder Ritchson in the second period.
“It was really fun and exciting,” Gomez said after winning his second league title. “There were some nerves in the air but overall we went out and relied on our training and belief we would win.”
Millikan sophomore Ryan Kaven and Wilson junior Zavier Echevarria-Soto had the most exciting bout of the day at 182 pounds. Echevarria-Soto reversed and took down Kaven to make it a one-point match in the second period, but Kaven scored big in the third period to take the title with a 16-12 win.
At 195 pounds, Millikan senior Nathan Gomez pinned Wilson senior Isaac Martinez in the second period. Gomez lost in the final last year.
Senior Cordae Jones won Wilson’s only title of the day at 220 pounds by pinning Poly senior Randy Ramos in the first period. It is Jones’ second league title.
Finally at 285 pounds, Millikan senior Seth Elliot had the fastest pin of the day by beating Wilson senior Dorian Ortloff just 11 seconds into their match.
The CIF Southern Section individual competition is on Friday and Saturday.
“I feel good about where they’re at and we’re excited about the next tournament,” Thompson said. “The kids want to make up for what they felt like they should’ve had on Wednesday.”