Warrior wrestling takes tough Metro League loss to Century
'The Metro League wrestling schedule makers didn't do Aloha or Century any favors stacking the two heavyweight programs against each other in the first post-holiday-break match of the regular season.
The district's two best teams, after two weeks of sporadic practice, downtime spent with family and friends, short vacations and plenty of good holiday food, squared off on Jan. 4 in a match that could and most likely will decide Metro bragging rights moving forward.
Neither team was in peak form. Neither squad looked as exceptional as they did earlier in the season and for good reason. Each team was admittedly sluggish, as was Aloha's normally electric home crowd, which can often act as the wind behind the Warriors' sails, especially in drawn-out matches that go the distance.
As a result, Aloha's hopes of another Metro regular season title went out the window as the Warriors lost to the Jaguars 42-25 at Aloha High School. Aloha dropped to 3-1 in Metro while Century moved to 4-0.
"A lot of guys were gassed," Aloha 132-pound Colton Flemming said. "A lot of people missed practice and not getting those extra workouts obviously showed. Some people were out of town. Others were spending the night with friends, just enjoying winter break. (Winter break) catches kids by surprise sometimes. All we learned from this is we have to show up to practice."
The setback certainly didn't set off any alarm bells amongst the Aloha grapplers. With a deep, bountiful group to lean on, including a strong junior varsity team, the Warriors will show better at the district tournament where depth and numbers are just as important as individual champions. By Feb. 3, the Warriors likely will be back at the level they were when they beat Westview on the road.
"We're going to see (Century) at districts anyways, so we'll get them again," Aloha senior Ismael Garcia said. "It would've been nice to win another Metro title, but districts is most important for us. We have a lot of wrestlers on our team, so that'll help us get more victories (at the district tournament). The Metro looks a little small team-wise, so we can get a lot of points at districts."
Had this match played out in the final week of the season, as it did the past two years, perhaps the outcome teeters toward Aloha. Not that the singularly driven Warriors are in the excuse business. But without a match for two weeks and odd practice hours over the break, Aloha got out of its customary routine, the regimen most grapplers live by. Flemming said he attended as many practices as possible and ventured to the Viper Mat Club when he could. While he was out of town, Flemmer tried to stay sharp by hitting the gym to keep his body "in motion." But nothing can simulate a real grisly, grimy six-minute war under the spotlight.
"Tonight was about getting back into shape and just wrestling," Flemming said. "There were no matches over the winter break and I just feel like I didn't wrestle like I normally do. I just need some more practices, more tournaments, more matches."
Garcia said the reason why he, Flemming and some of the other Warriors were able to win against Century came down to a trained mental toughness they picked growing up in the Aloha youth program. The senior said he didn't pass on any of the hearty, good-tasting grub that came his way around Christmas, but instead of letting it weigh him down he ran it off and stayed steady.
Century led 23-0 after the first four bouts before Flemming won by fall to put six points on the board for Aloha. 145-pound Payton Volk and 160-pound Jackson Rosado won by pin while Garcia won by major decision and 220-pound Brett Nicholson won by decision. Aloha trailed just 26-21 after Rosado's pin but dropped four of the final five fights as Century pulled away.
That said, the rust of two weeks away from competition reared its head in the minute details of matches. Decisions that could've been pins and major decisions that would've been falls came up just short for the Warriors.
"I was pretty frustrated, I wanted that pin to help the team out more," Garcia said. "But I just have to work on finishing strong. As a team, we have to condition more to finish those matches off."