It’s easy to look at Los Banos High’s 60-9 wrestling victory over Pacheco on Wednesday and write it off as a blowout, but the Panthers made every match a battle. In the end, though, it wasn’t enough to close the gap between the two programs.
No match told that story more perfectly than the 170-pound one between Los Banos’ David Melendez and Pacheco’s Jonathan Lang. Melendez started the match extremely aggressive, and earned an early penalty when he struck Lang in the face going for a move.
“I’ve been putting my head out in the ring and just been getting smashed on,” Melendez said, “and I saw this kid at the beginning of the match who was staring me down, and I decided, you know what, if he’s going to be aggressive, I’m going to beat him to it.
“I decided I’m going to go out there and give it my all and not going to give up anything. If I’m down, I’m going to be always trying to move.”
After the first period, the referee warned Melendez he needed to calm down. Melendez and Lang responded by exploding at each other from the whistle like a football Oklahoma drill. Lang owned the second period with a takedown and a near-fall to take a 6-4 lead, but Melendez turned him for the pin in the third.
“That’s just everything I’ve put into the wrestling room,” Melendez said. “We practice 2-3 hours a day every day, and this is the reward for it, to be able to go out there and do a back-and-forth, being able to scrap it out and come out with the win.
Melendez and Lang shared a laugh after the dual, letting each other know there were no hard feelings.
Only two Pacheco wrestlers were able to gain team points – Miguel Barrera defeated Los Banos’ Christian McEntire 8-5 in triple overtime at 113 pounds, another intense match that McEntire gave up on illegal hold penalties after tying it with a reverse with 3 seconds left in regulation; and Javier Gonzalez pinned Los Banos’ Harbir Dhillon in the final match of the night at 182 pounds.
At heavyweight, Pacheco’s Joseph Coronado led 6-0 in the second period before Evan Duran turned him and put him on his back. And at 152 pounds, Los Banos’ Dalton Brook earned an escape and a takedown in the last 40 seconds for the winning points.
“The score does not reflect how the match went. A lot of them hung in there all the way to the end,” Pacheco coach Michael Singh said. “But just a couple of things here and there, and that’s what we’re going to work on in the next week. People are going to go out there and say, ‘Oh, Los Banos blew them away.’ But my guys know. We can say we fought hard.”
Before the match, the teams unveiled a traveling trophy for the rivalry – the Herb Himmerich Cup, named after the long-time Los Banos Junior High School coach. The Tigers won the cup one night after failing to win back the Noah Dru Moreno Trophy, the traveling trophy for the Dos Palos match.
“I was impressed with how they’re fired up. Coming off of last night’s deal, they could take out their frustrations in this match,” Los Banos coach Josh Adams said. “That’s huge to come out clinching. Some of our guys haven’t won a lot this year, but they come out with these close matches or come out with the pin in the third period or something. That was big for them, at this point in the season, to be able to finish solid, close matches. That’s a big morale-booster.”