The order of matches in high school wrestling is determined by a random draw at weigh-ins that morning, so a grappler never quite knows if a dual will come down to his bout.
On Tuesday, that onus fell on Atascadero 120-pounder Danny Reyes, and the senior who returned to the mat after a one-year hiatus scored a come-from-behind third-period pin to clinch a thrilling 42-37 PAC 8 victory over North County rival Paso Robles at Ewing Gym.
“I’m still kind of stunned — it was way too crazy,” said Reyes, who chose soccer over wrestling as a sophomore to avoid cutting weight, but missed the sport too much to stay away. “When I heard the ref put his hand on the mat, I was so happy. There’s no words for that.”
Reyes trailed Bearcats junior Kobe Feeley 5-0 in the second period before scoring a reversal and two near-fall points late in the frame. Reyes chose the top position despite only needing an escape point to tie, and after Feeley notched a reversal, Reyes reversed back, scored two more near-fall points and finally stuck his man with 15 seconds left in the bout.
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Reyes immediately leapt to his feet in exuberance, as the six team points he secured gave the Greyhounds (3-0) an insurmountable 42-32 advantage with only one bout left.
“Danny knew that worst comes to worst, let’s try not to get pinned and keep it to a minimum,” said Atascadero 195-pound senior Karson Block, the only county grappler to qualify for last year’s state meet. “But he saw everyone else going out there and executing, and he just wanted to do go out and execute.
“Finally, when it came down to the end there and he got on top, you knew he wasn’t going to let him off his back.”
It was the first dual victory over Paso Robles (2-1) in Block’s career, which includes the 56-15 thumping the Bearcats handed the Greyhounds at Ewing Gym last year.
This matchup appeared headed that way early, as pins by Mike Dominguez (132 pounds), Trevor Torres (145) and Justin Nunez (152) and a technical fall from Lawrence Ray (138) staked the visitors to a 23-0 advantage through four bouts.
“We graduated so many seniors these last two years that two-thirds of our team is freshman and sophomores,” Bearcats coach Chris Monteiro said.
“We had a couple nice swing matches ... but the thing is, we’ve got to do a little gut check. It’s better to lose 4-1 than give up a pin, and we did that three times.”
Nick Ducasse got the ball rolling for Atascadero — ranked No. 1 in the CIF-Southern Section Northern Division — with a pin late in the first period at 160 pounds, before falls by Seth Burchfield (170), Tannen Soojian (182), Block (195), and Jordan Council (220) vaulted the Greyhounds in front 30-23.
“It’s hard, like in any sport, to see yourself down by a significant amount, but we knew where our strength in the lineup was,” Block said. “We were able to pull off some close matches, and we were able to pull them off with some pins, which really helped us in the team score.
“You always feed off the momentum of the team. You’re trying to get mentally prepared for just you and (your opponent), but at the same time, I’m doing this for my team.”
Heavyweight Blake Irysh stemmed the tide for a moment with a 10-6 decision to pull Paso Robles within four, but 106-pounder Isaac Keefer flung the momentum right back to the Atascadero bench with a pin in the final 20 seconds of the second period.
Oscar Covarrubias wasted no time in getting a pin at 113 pounds to make it a four-point match again, but Reyes’ fall prohibited Kameron Morones’ 126-pound technical fall in the final bout from deciding the winner.
“Just because it’s Paso, I knew that I needed to do this for the team,” Reyes said of his mindset in the third period. “I knew if I got a win that it’d be over. I just had to dig deep and see what was there.”
Atascadero 66, St. Joseph 10
Tyler West (heavyweight) and Zeke Dubois (152) both registered first-period pins for the Greyhounds.
Soojian picked up a 9-4 decision at 182 pounds, and Reyes won his 120-pound match with a 4-0 decision.
Paso Robles 51, St. Joseph 17
Torres (140) stuck his opponent in 2:15 while Irysh (heavyweight) needed just 30 seconds to secure a fall.
Feeley starter off the dual with an 11-9 decision at 122 pounds.