A 19th straight West Yosemite League wrestling championship was all but a certainty for the Lemoore Tigers.
The Tigers dominated their opposition during the dual season, and they were also dominant in the WYL tournament on Saturday at the Redwood gymnasium.
Lemoore had 13 wrestlers in championship matches out of 14 weight classes en route to posting a score of 311.50.
Thanks to a come-from-behind victory by freshman Aaron Watts, Redwood secured 198 points for second place, just edging out El Diamante's 195.5 points.
"The guys that were here and made weight, they did what they were supposed to do or exceeded it," Redwood coach Dave Watts said. "I'm happy they all did so well because we needed those points. There's not many teams in the Valley that can beat Lemoore so this is a good boost for our team. We have everybody coming back next year except one senior. We want to give them a run for their money next year."
The Rangers fared extremely well in the tournament with seven wrestlers reaching the championship round, including winning a trio of championships.
Darrion Harris at 120 pounds and Joey Cisneros at 106 pounds were expected to win for the Rangers and they were dominant in doing so.
But it was the freshman Watts who needed a victory at 126 pounds to help Redwood secure enough points for second place.
Watts got the job done in dramatic fashion.
Trailing 5-3 against Lemoore's Adam Cumming with just 14 seconds left in regulation, Watts managed a takedown for two points to tie the match at 5-5. The points originally weren't awarded to Watts, but his coach/father Dave Watts contested and the referees agreed it was a takedown. The Lemoore coaches contested the decision, but it was ultimately decided that Watts did record the takedown.
The match then went into overtime where Watts recorded a takedown with one second left for the 7-5 victory.
"I don't even know what to say," Aaron Watts said. "All the excitement kept me going. Lemoore's chanting made me want to win it more."
The noise in the gym didn't get very loud for the majority of the championship matches, but it was almost deafening with Lemoore and Redwood fans yelling during the 126-pound match.
"At the beginning, the coaches decided to put the most exciting matches on last," Dave Watts said. "Those two wrestled earlier in the year and Aaron won 2-0. Both have similar styles and when they get in scrambling situations, they get after it. I told Aaron he needed to win, we expected him to win because he had already beaten him before. It is a lot of pressure for a freshman, but he wrestled well."
Pressure is nothing to new to the younger Watts. He had two older brothers, David and Randall, who were standout wrestlers at El Diamante.
"This means a lot to me. I'm trying to live up to everybody's expectations," Aaron said. "But I enjoy the pressure. It makes me want to win more."
Dave Watts said his son has done a good job of handling the pressure so far. And now he has accomplished something his older brothers didn't.
"He needs to make his own identity and not worry about what his brothers did," Dave said. "He's a league champion as a freshman and that's something his brothers didn't do. He's one up on them with that. There will always be pressure on him. I tell him to make sure he does things right because I'm the coach and people will be watching him."
The next step for Aaron is the Yosemite Divisional tournament, which will be held Friday and Saturday at Madera South High School.
"I'm thankful for my dad and brothers for pushing and pushing me," Aaron said. "I wouldn't have gotten this far without them."
In other championship matches:
Lemoore finished with nine individual champions, Redwood had three and Mt. Whitney had two.
Cisneros closed out the tournament with a 17-4 victory against Lemoore's David Campbell.
"I think I did a good job," Cisneros said. "He didn't really get anything on me. He's a good wrestler, but I thought my defense was good and I stayed on the attack on offense."
Harris was also dominant in his win, recording a technical fall (18-3) against Lemoore's Stephan Cano.
"The tournament went pretty much how I expected," Harris said. "Coach told me to go hard after him and I did."
Dave Watts said he expects both Cisneros and Harris to make a run at state.
"Darrion was very dominant the whole tournament," Watts said. "If he keeps it up, he'll be on his way to state. He dominated like he was supposed to."
Watts got what he expected out of Cisneros.
"He dominated Campbell pretty well tonight," Watts said. "He looked good. Campbell is ranked one spot behind us in state so to win by that many points is a good win for Joey."
The first Pioneer to win a title was Isaiah Aceves at 184 pounds. The Mt. Whitney junior needed just 1 minute, 22 seconds to pin Redwood's Josh Castro.
"I thought I had a solid tournament," Aceves said. "Hopefully I can go to state and place in the top eight, that's what I want."
Next it was Mt. Whitney's Jaime Galvan pulling out a 7-2 victory against Lemoore's Brett Lowe.
Tied at 2-2 late in the match, Galvan recorded a two-point reversal with 0:55 left and followed it up with a three-point near fall to pull away for the win.
"I was waiting for the end to get that reversal," Galvan said. "The coaches were telling me to get it, but I had to wait for the right time."
Galvan really wanted the victory because he lost against Lowe by one point at the Redwood Invitational earlier in the season.
It also marked his first league title. As a freshman he had a third-place finish, and he finished in second place in his weight class as a sophomore.
Mt. Whitney coach John Fetcho feels Galvan has a run to the state tournament in him.
"Me and him made it a personal goal to make it to state to set us up for his senior year," Fetcho said. "He's right there. He has come a long way since his freshman year to be the wrestler he is now."
The Pioneers had eight wrestlers reach the Yosemite Divisional tournament.
"I thought we did well considering we have a young squad," Fetcho said. "We did much better than I thought we would."
El Diamante, which finished in third place in the league standings, will send 12 wrestlers to divisionals. They sent three wrestlers to the championship round, but could not come away with any titles.
Golden West had 11 qualify for divisionals, and Redwood will send 11.