There was no easing into the start of the Peninsula Athletic League Bay Division for the Half Moon Bay wrestling team, the defending division and PAL tournament champion.
The Cougars were matched up against another PAL power in South City in Half Moon Bay Thursday night, but the Cougars are just as good as they were last year as they posted a 48-24 win.
"It was kind of what we expected,” said Half Moon Bay coach Tom Baker. "We're excited to defend our crown. The kids want to win league.”
South City coach Steve Matteucci was almost resigned to the fact his squad would come up short.
"[Half Moon Bay] looked tough. They were ready to wrestle,” Matteucci said. "Too many (of my) guys missed practice over the break so we're out of shape.”
It appeared Half Moon Bay (1-0 PAL Bay) was on its way to a dominating victory, winning the first four matches. Tristan Keller won the first match of the night by forfeit at 106 pounds and Evan Marschall followed with an 11-4 win at 113. Spencer Boling, ranked No. 6 in the Central Coast Section at 120, had his hands full with South City's Kevin Perez, who is ranked 20th, but Boling prevailed with a 7-4 victory. Cesar Velazquez them punctuated the Cougars' run with an 8-4 win at 126 pounds.
With the Warriors trailing 15-0 on the scoreboard, they made their move. They got a second-round pin from Yah Tha at 132 pounds for their first win of the night, cutting their deficit to 15-6. William Nichollos followed with a first-round pin and just like that, South City trailed by just three points, 15-12.
It appeared South City was poised to tie the match at 15 as Oscar Cortez built an 8-6 lead over Half Moon Bay's Dominic Pintarelli at 145. But in the waning seconds, Pintarelli picked up one point for an escape and a three-point near fall to pull out a 9-8 victory, giving the Cougars some breathing room on the scoreboard, 18-12.
After the teams exchanged forfeits at 152 and 160 pounds, Half Moon Bay picked up six more points on a first-round pin by Joseph Lowman at 170. Lowman is ranked sixth in CCS at 170 pounds. South City got the points right back at 182, however, when Arthur Georgiyev, ranked No. 1 in the division in CCS, picked up a second-round pin, cutting the Cougars' lead to 30-24.
Half Moon Bay secured no worse than a tie when the Warriors had to forfeit at 195, giving the Cougars a 12-point lead, 36-24, meaning South City would have to win the final two matches by pin to tie the score.
Instead, it was Half Moon Bay that swept the last pair. Marcos Sarabia pinned his opponent in the second round and his brother Mario Sarabia was awarded the final six points when South City forfeited the heavyweight match.
Baker said he was especially pleased with the performance of Marschall at 113. Marschall, a freshman who normally wrestles at 106, was moved up to 113, giving up 12 pounds to Justin Delcastillo, also a freshman. But Marschall handled his opponent with relative ease.
The meeting between these two squad would usually have a league title hanging in the balance, so it was surprising to see the schedule makers make this match the league opener. But both coaches said it wouldn't really matter when their teams met.
"Our league is like college football,” Matteucci said. "You have to go undefeated (to win a league championship). [Half Moon Bay] looks like they're on their way to repeating.”