By Bill Tamburrino
Coach Steve Koch’s young Bulldog varsity wrestling team came of age last Thursday at Rancho Bernardo. Fielding a team with four sophomores and a freshman, the Bulldog grapplers bounced back from their loss to Poway and had to fight back in several bouts to beat defending Division II CIF champion Rancho Bernardo on the road 34-21.
“This is the proudest I’ve felt about a win in a long time, and I’ve been coaching for 20 years,” said Koch. “We did it by coming from behind in a lot of matches. One key was we didn’t give up any pins and we got three pins of our own. We had to fight back in several bouts and we beat two wrestlers that are ranked in the top 10 in the county. We came from behind in three bouts to force overtimes and we won two of those overtime bouts.”
The first bout was a harbinger of bouts to come. Martin Dowers (115) trailed 6-0 and battled back to force overtime against Chris Rojas. Dowers won 9-7 to give Ramona a 3-0 advantage.
Blake Hakala (122) lost by technical fall to Jeremy Rubic, and Zach Lane (128) dropped a decision to Wilfred Charbono, so Ramona trailed after three bouts 9-3.
Kevin Conroy turned the tide and tied the match at 9 by pinning Hunter Stock in 1:15 in the 134-pound bout. Freshman Troy Jordan (140) lost a tough bout to Nicholas Mendiola, and Rancho Bernardo jumped back into the lead 12-9.
Isaiah Ilich won a decision over Mikey Pollard 7-2 in the 147 bout to tie the score at 12. The Broncos battled back and took a 15-12 lead when Adam Carrion won a decision over Brian Coane in the 154 pound bout.
Sophomore Jacob Grybow (162) then recorded the fastest fall of the match by pinning Cyrus Pirsa in 43 seconds to give Ramona a lead that they would not relinquish as the Dawgs led 18-5.
The feature bout of the match was the 172. Ramona’s Devin Rhodes, ranked fourth in the county, squared off against Ryan Milkovits, the fifth ranked wrestler in the county.
The bout went down to the final seconds, and Rhodes prevailed 2-1 to give Ramona a 21-15 lead.
Noe Hernandez then battled Armon Kalustov in the 184 bout. Kalustov won a last-minute decision to make the score 21-18 Bulldogs.
Josh Allen upset Brian Brady in the 195 bout by pinning him in 1:03 to give the Dawgs a 27-18 lead.
Andy Burns (222) and Arlen Kohman then hooked up in the longest and toughest bout of the night. Both wrestlers showed exceptional stamina and courage. Burns battled back from a 5-point deficit and tied the bout in the final seconds of regulation. The bout went into three overtimes before Burns lost in the final seconds of the final overtime 8-7.
Rancho Bernardo trailed 27-21 and had the number three ranked heavyweight in the county going against unranked Jureall Simmons of Ramona.
Simmons wrestled the bout of his career, and when the regulation six minutes were up the score was tied at 2.
Simmons then scored a takedown in the final second of overtime to pull off the upset of the match and ensure a victory for the Bulldogs.
The Dawgs led 30-21 going into the last bout, but Vince Adair (106) wrestled like the match was on the line and scored a major decision over Chris France to make the final score 34-21.
“We take on Torrey Pines this week at home,” said Koch. “It would be nice to see the Dawg House packed.”
Throughout the match Assistant Coach Dwayne Guile reminded the Bulldog wrestlers that they had the heart it took to win. Conditioning Coach John Rodriguez made sure that the Dawgs had the stamina it took to force three overtimes and win two of them. Koch and his staff prepared the wrestlers well and the wrestlers delivered in the clutch.