Hermiston’s debut in the Mid-Columbia Conference wrestling scene started as well as they could have hoped.
The Bulldogs jumped out to a 26-0 lead over Southridge after four matches, and led 26-6 after six, getting impressive wins from their lower weights.
But the Suns came to life in the middle and upper weights, rallying back to post a 42-35 victory in Kennewick.
“You never know what will happen,” Hermiston coach Kyle Larson said. “We don’t know Southridge. We are doing what we can. We are fighting hard, and as long as they do that, we can teach them to wrestle. There’s lots to improve on, but now we have a measuring stick.”
It also was the season opener for the Suns, under first-year coach Rich Cunningham.
“My head coaching debut after 26 years and we were getting our butts kicked,” Cunningham said. “I was embarrassed. Our experience is our bigger kids, and they picked me up. It was awesome. I couldn’t be happier. Hermiston has a quality program and they are well coached. It was a good win.”
Zayne Helfer led off the match at 106 pounds with a pin of Saw Thee. Adrian Delgado picked up a forfeit at 113, and Hunter Dyer’s technical fall over Soe-Moe Hlat at 120 gave the Bulldogs a 17-0 lead.
At 126, Isaac Lambert pinned Southridge’s Steven Meier in 53 seconds for a 23-0 lead.
Alex Brown put the Suns on the board with a pin of Gage Shipley at 132, but Hermiston added three more points at 138 with a decision by Jordan Franklin for a 26-6 lead.
Then, the tide started to turn.
Southridge’s Austin Gideon pinned Chris Lomeli at 145, and the Suns picked up a forfeit at 152 to pull within 26-18.
Hermiston’s Trevor Wagner and Southridge’s Ryan Stayrook had the fans roaring during their match at 160. There were big throws and tense moments before Wagner pulled out a 9-5 victory after leading 8-0 to start the third round.
“That’s the first time I have wrestled him,” Wagner said. “I wrestled my match and tried to stay in control as much as I could. It was good competition. It was a good first match.”
The Suns won the next four matches, starting with Mikael Failor’s pin of Pakdee Donranai at 170 pounds.
“We knew they had some strong lightweights,” Failor said. “We knew we would be strong in the heavier weights. We came in thinking we would be better than we were to start, but we were able to come back.”
Southridge took a 36-29 lead after Jacob Privett’s pin of Zach Sandoval at 195, putting Hermiston in a position to have to win the final two matches for the win. They got one.
Jevon Johnson put the match out of reach with a pin of Hermiston’s Sean Stewart 220, and the Bulldogs’ big man Dustyn Coughlin finished the night with a first-round pin.
Hermiston had a large group of fans at the match, which was nice to see, according to Larson.
“We want to get fans in the seats, and the way to do that is to win matches and fight,” Larson said. “We have to have a product people want to see.”
Team scores: Southridge 42, Hermiston 35. 106 - Zayne Helfer (H) p. Saw Thee, 3:27. 113 - Adrian Delgado (H) won by forfeit. 120 - Hunter Dyer (H) tf. Soe-Moe Hlat, 15-0. 126 - Isaac Lambert (H) p. Steven Meier, :53. 132 - Alex Brown (S) p. Gage Shipley, 1:13. 138 - Jordan Franklin (H) d. Xavier Ruiz, 5-2. 145 - Austin Gideon 9S) p. Chris Lomeli, 1:10. 152 - Tyler Gooch (S) won by forfeit. 160 - Trevor Wagner (H) d. Ryan Stayrook, 9-5. 170 - Mikael Failor (S) p. Pakdee Donranai, :31. 182 - Cody Hudson (S) p. Blake Betz, 3:27. 195 - Jacob Privett (S) p. Zach Sandoval, 2:54. 220 - Jevon Johnson (S) p. Sean Stewart, 3:58. 285 - Dustyn Coughlin (H) p. Dennis Emak, 1:54.