YAKIMA, Wash. -- A change in work ethic, a change in attitude and a change in numbers.
For West Valley wrestling, it’s all added up to a big change in results.
After three winless years in league duals since moving into the Columbia Basin Big Nine, the Rams have broken through this season and the latest — and perhaps most impressive — evidence was Tuesday’s 39-33 victory at Davis.
Anchored by a 24-0 run on the heavy end of the lineup, West Valley pushed its league record to 3-2 and will wrap up the regular season next Tuesday with a home match against 0-4 Wenatchee.
“This year we’ve just been more serious and more dedicated,” said junior Stephen Farris, whose third-period fall at 182 pounds started the big mid-match run. “We’ve been able to build this team up and everybody’s been a part of it.”
The Rams were without their heavyweight on Tuesday and originally forfeited that weight for the face-off. But once Davis deployed standouts Emiliano Mata and Jordan Alcala at 160 and 170, respectively, WV coach David Stai opted to insert a new 160-pounder and bump everyone else up a weight.
Mata recorded a pin and Alcala followed with a decision to give the Pirates a 15-12 lead through six matches. But WV’s shifted lineup produced three consecutive pins by Farris, sophomore Kadin Rathburn and junior Chris Luke. Junior Hunter Vickers picked up a forfeit at 285, and the Rams were suddenly up 36-15.
“We talked to the kids before the match about possibly moving the lineup around and we were fortunate it worked out,” Stai said. “These kids have been great about doing what it takes. Last year we were really young and we preached to them about what hard work and an extra effort can do. They see that now.”
Chris Moores and Jared Navarro also delivered pins for the Rams, but a crucial swing came late with a simple decision.
With his team up 36-21 with just three matches left, WV freshman Anthony Capi built a seemingly comfortable 7-2 lead heading into the final period at 113. But Davis’ Caleb Aguilar, also a ninth-grader, worked a cradle on Capi and exposed his back to the mat with 45 seconds left.
Capi managed to avoid being pinned, conceded three near-fall points and held on for a 7-5 win that clinched the Rams’ victory.
The Pirates finished with Luis Partida’s pin and Cameron Guerin’s forfeit points, setting the final tally at 39-33, and it was Capi’s grit at the end that saved it for West Valley.
“That was big,” Stai noted. “(Anthony) made a mistake but he didn’t get pinned. That one pretty much decided it, and we knew it would be close.”
What has been especially rewarding for Stai and his Rams is that the turnaround has been successful in duals and tournaments. West Valley has three invitational wins to its credit and can also look forward to hosting the district tournament on Feb. 2-3.
“The tournament wins have been the most fun,” Farris said. “Those take a real team effort with points from everybody. We started with a one-point win over Selah here (in the Davis Invitational on Dec. 2) and we’ve kept it going.”
WEST VALLEY 39, DAVIS 33
132: Chris Moores (WV) p. Maliachi Cook, 1:12. 138: Shawn Abeyta (D) d. Jamie Plumlee, 6-2. 145: John Sowers (D) d. Josue Navarro, 6-1. 152: Jared Navarro (WV) p. Marcus Bautista, 0:43. 160: Emiliano Mata (D) p. JP Leahy, 2:26. 170: Jordan Alcala (D) d. Conner Koch, 4-1. 182: Stephen Farris (WV) p. Juan Belman, 5:30. 195: Kadin Rathburn (WV) p. Alex Huizar, 3:45. 220: Chris Luke (WV) p. Uriel Vasquez, 0:14. 285: Hunter Vickers (WV) won by forfeit. 106: Dom Sowers (D) won by forfeit. 113: Anthony Capi (WV) d. Caleb Aguilar, 7-5. 120: Luis Partida (D) p. Jaxon Whittum, 2:21. 126: Cameron Guerin (D) won by forfeit.