WALLA WALLA — The Walla Walla High School wrestling team sealed a dual-meet victory over Hanford with a dramatic win by junior Donovan Romero in the 195-pound weight class Thursday night in the Blue Devils’ small gym.
Romero pinned Hanford’s Zach Shaw in the second round to clinch a 40-34 win for the Blue Devils.
“It was huge,” Wa-Hi head coach Dallas Jones said of Romero’s performance. “Donovan stepped up there and answered the call. He didn’t try to keep it close. He went out and there and flat-out went after it. It was pretty exciting. He looked good.”
Wa-Hi got a major boost from its underclassmen, as Jones said the Blue Devils trotted out a number of their younger grapplers.
Justin Evans, a sophomore, pinned Cooper Gaylord in the second round of the 138-pound class. Fellow sophomore Ammon Juhasz, in the 152-pound division, defeated Hanford’s Isaac Leggett 7-1. Lucas Rassback, another Wa-Hi sophomore, defeated Jourdan Plante in the 182-pound class, 8-6.
Rassback’s victory tied the match at 34-34, before Romero sealed the Wa-Hi win.
“I’m really proud of our young guys,” Jones said. “For a lot of them it was their first varsity experience and they performed well. It definitely helps having those couple seniors on the team that have been there. They show them the way.”
Wil Babbitt and Noe Gonzales, the two Blue Devil seniors, cruised to victories, as Gonzalez pinned Robert Young in one minute and Babbitt pinned Hanford’s Joey Montoya in just 17 seconds.
Wa-Hi forfeited the first two of its first three matches because the Blue Devils could not field a full squad. But Wa-Hi persevered and earned a hard-fought win, Jones said.
“The kids wrestled really hard and they kept fighting the entire time and that was the difference,” Jones said. “No one ever gave up. There were a couple matches and we had to win them. I was pretty proud of the win. It was a good way to start the year.”
The Blue Devils are back in action today at the Best of the West tournament at Pasco High School.
Wa-Hi 40, Hanford 34
106 — Josh Strickland, Hanford, won by forfeit. 113 — Blake Llarenas, Hanford, dec Josh Pettyjohn, Wa-Hi, 11-3. 120 — Brendon Hutteball, Hanford, won by forfeit. 126 — Noe Gonzalez, Wa-Hi, pinned Robert Young, Hanford, 1:00. 132 — Will Babbitt, Wa-Hi, pinned Joey Montoya, Hanford, :17. 138 — Justin Evans, Wa-Hi, pinned Cooper Gaylord, Hanford, 3:31. 145 — Martin Barrera, Wa-Hi, dec. Brock Higgins, Hanford, 11-2. 152 — Ammon Juhasz, Wa-Hi, dec. Isaac Leggett, Hanford, 7-1. 160 — Ezmond Fox, Hanford, won by forfeit. 170 — Luis Nicasio, Hanford, pinned Aden Boede, Wa-Hi, 3:13. 182 — Lucas Rassbach, Wa-Hi, dec. Jourdan Plante, Hanford, 8-6. 195 — Donavan Romero, Wa-Hi, pinned Zach Shaw, Hanford, 2:28. 220 — Ryan Rogel, Wa-Hi, pinned Noah Ellis, Hanford, 4:33. 285 — Dallon Grinder, Hanford, pinned Kurt Blackman, Wa-Hi, :25.
Team Scores — Wa-Hi 40, Hanford 34