Pali High Freshman Ryan Woods Wrestles to City Title
By STEVE GALLUZZO | Sports Editor
Ryan Woods had to play the waiting game last Saturday at the City Section Wrestling Championships in Lake Balboa.
The Palisades High freshman showed wisdom beyond his years to stay focused throughout a five-hour break between his semifinal and final matches, but after what seemed like an eternity he took the mat and took out San Pedro’s Tyler Donald on a pin with 44 seconds left in the second period to win the 106-pound title and become the first ninth-grader in program history to be City champion.
“It was a lot of jogging and pacing around,” Woods admitted. “I practiced moves with Richie Rosen in the warmup room to stay loose, but other than that there’s not much you can do. I kept thinking just stick to my game.”
Woods scored a two-point takedown in the opening seconds, but moments later Donald pulled even on a reversal. Woods built a 6-2 lead before his sophomore opponent got another reversal to close to within 6-4. Woods scored his third takedown to go ahead by four points before seizing his opportunity to end the contest just past the halfway mark.
“I was pretty nervous because I hadn’t wrestled him before,” he said. “I wanted to set the tone with the first takedown, which I was able to do. He got me right back, but then I got him right back and it was back and forth. I had to be really careful going for it at the end but once I got him on his back I held him and hung on for dear life. It feels amazing and it shows that hard work pays off. Back in eighth grade at Paul Revere winning City wasn’t even in my train of thought.”
Woods was the Dolphins’ lone first-place finisher, but they still accumulated enough points to take third in the team standings, two spots higher than last year. Birmingham edged Sylmar by a single point to win its third City title in a row.
Woods won all four of his matches by fall in the two-day tournament and qualified for next weekend’s state meet at Mechanics Bank Arena in Bakersfield.
“I’ve heard it’s an amazing atmosphere up there and my goal is to do my best and win as many matches as I can. I’m more confident with my shots now and I can go the full six minutes strong.”
Two other Dolphins reached the finals in their weight classes. Eric Smith-Williams was game in a 6-2 defeat to Birmingham’s Desi Lobos in the 145-pound division while Parsa Pourmoula made Bell’s Sebastian Tapia work for a 5-2 decision at 152.
“I couldn’t get to my offense like I normally do—he held good position,” Smith-Williams said. “On the bottom he got my wrist and I couldn’t get out. I needed to push the pace instead of reacting to everything he was doing.”
Pourmoula was hoping the third time would be a charm after having lost to Tapia twice.
“He had very good position on his feet, he kept his distance and I couldn’t shoot on him,” said Pourmoula, who had one pin and two lopsided decisions on his way to the finals. “Strengthwise I felt stronger, but he was smarter.”
Rosen beat Canoga Park’s Brian Baez by major decision to take third at 113 pounds; Kyle Santelices blanked Grant’s Nerek Ghazaryan 10-0 for fifth at 132; John Berrellez won by forfeit to earn fifth place at 138; Braeden Harris got a grueling 4-3 decision over San Pedro’s Jonathan Herrera to take fifth at 170 and Nick Meeks was fourth at 220 pounds.
“The goal is to get more kids in the room,” coach Mike Lawlor said. “We’d be a better contender for City if we had a full lineup.”