PASCO, Wash. — The Hermiston Bulldogs’ perennial winners did it again Friday, but couldn’t quite help the team to a tournament victory.
Four Hermiston wrestlers moved into the finals of the Best of the West tournament at Pasco High, but only sophomore Tyler Berger and senior Joey Delgado brought home tournament championships.
One more winner could have moved Hermiston from third into second in team point totals, in which the Bulldogs trailed Chelan (Wash.) 124.5 to 118.5. Both squads were a healthy distance from the first-place team from Caldwell (Idaho), which scored 165 points with five wrestlers placing.
It’s still a heck of an effort for a team that’s been hamstrung by injuries so far this season, Hermiston coach Curt Berger said.
The Bulldogs have competed through much of the early season without some of their key components and Friday’s tournament was no different.
The group has had to pull together with everyone chipping in more for the Dawgs to score as high as they have. A much needed rest for those players is just around the corner.
“It’s a good preseason and I think we’ve probably accomplished what we needed to do minus the unknowns, which is some of the injuries and stuff like that,” Berger said. “We’ll have a good Christmas and a little bit of a break and then we need to come out firing on all cylinders.”
In the Best of the West tournament, Tyler Berger started his 138-pound finals match a bit slowly. Against Deondre Sparks of Pasco, Berger said he spent much of the first few minutes feeling out the opponent and waiting for Sparks to get fatigued and careless.
Sparks did. Berger made him pay, using an arm bar to flip Sparks over and pin him in the third round.
“A lot of guys if they watch me, that’s what they’ll try and stop,” Berger said. “But later in the match they start getting more tired and tired and lazier and lazier with their elbows. And when I catch it, normally I’m going to pin a guy.”
Delgado’s match wasn’t as close. The senior pinned Kellen Pelzel of Centralia (Wash.) for the victory in the 145-weight class. He was already leading 8-0 when the referee signaled the end of the bout.
Delgado also faced Pelzel on Thursday during the duals portion of the Best of the West, another victory for the Bulldog. With that first match in his back pocket to draw from, Delgado said he knew what things he needed to work on in the rematch.
“I didn’t really control the match (on Thursday),” Delgado said. “I felt like I flowed better in the finals.”
The Bulldogs’ other two finalists, Isaac Aguilar at 113 pounds and Lupe Delgado at 152 pounds, each saw their tournament lives end with pin falls. Aguilar fell to Tony Gonzales of Caldwell in his match and Lupe was surprised by Mitchell Bocook of North Central (Wash.).
Lupe held a 7-3 lead at the time his match ended and looked to be in control just before a reversal of fortunes left him in a bad spot. Bocook was spread on his back as Lupe positioned himself for his own pinning maneuver when the Hermiston wrestler tried to adjust his hold to gain more leverage. The split-second break in pressure gave Bocook an opening.
“When I readjusted, I flipped over and he threw my legs,” Lupe said. “Then he got on top and I just turned the wrong way.”
“You can’t relax ever against a good kid,” coach Berger said about Lupe’s match. “Sometimes the most dangerous guy to you is when they’re getting pinned and that’s what happened.”