MOSES LAKE — It had been three years since Moses Lake and Othello wrestling linked up.
Thursday’s dual was worth the wait.
Two titanic programs of the Columbia Basin went down to the last round of the last match, with Moses Lake hanging on to win 32-31.
“Both communities have really rich traditions, both have built successful programs,” Othello head coach Rudy Ochoa II said. “A few years back I remember when Jaime (Garza) was really pushing to get this dual back started up and in Othello we were all for it... He called me over the summer and pretty much offered an invite, which speaks a lot about him.
“I mean, he doesn’t really win anything — he doesn’t earn anything — by beating us. He actually has a lot to lose being a powerhouse 4A program and having a smaller school come to his house. So I mean that just kind of shows Jaime’s philosophy and personality and what he’s doing over here and it says a lot about him and his program.”
Moses Lake took control early, winning the first two matches. Bailey Sanchez (182) dispatched Alfred Lemus 7-1 and Daiman Vasquez (195) beat second-ranked TJ Martinez 5-3.
However, the momentum of the dual ebbed and flowed throughout the night as Othello was able to stay close by way of pin.
Payton Castro (220) was upset by freshman Isaiah Perez. Leading 5-0 in the second round, Castro was reversed onto his back and pinned — a 12-point swing.
“Our kid’s a freshman at 220,” Ochoa II said. “He’s got a lot of experience in club wrestling and stuff like that. He’s a kid that took second at our tournament. Tough kid and he finally got a chance to help his team in a dual.”
Moses Lake regained the lead after the next match, 9-6, as Chandler Fluaitt (285) ground out a 4-2 decision against Chemi Cantu.
Chris Melo (106) gave Othello its only lead of the night, 10-9, after a 20-9 major decision over Caleb Lawson.
The lead quickly switched back to the Chiefs after a Husky forfeit at 113 pounds and grew to as high as 12 points. Thomas Hamm (120) and Christien Knopp won by major decision, while 2016 state runner-up Nick Hara (132) won by technical fall 25-8.
Hamm wrestled an inspired match and, with less than 30 seconds left, cut Isaiah Moongia and recorded a final take-down to ensure his major and an extra team point that became all too important.
“I was a little tired and I didn’t want to cut him, but I did so just had to take one for the team,” Hamm said.
Othello put itself in a position to win with three crucial pins by Jeremy Mendez (126), Sterling Roylance (145) and Collin Freeman (152). Freeman’s second-round pin of Levi Carlos tied the dual, 28-28.
“If we want to beat a team like Moses Lake we’re going to need all the help we can get and we have to pick up those pins and we kind of had that mentality going in that we’re going to try and pick up bonus points, try and pick up those pins so our approach was definitely to try and be more aggressive and catch them, if we could, out of position,” Ochoa II said.
In the penultimate bout, Hunter Cruz beat BJ Garza 13-4 for a major decision and an extra team point for a 32-28 lead.
2016 state runner-up Reese Jones (170) and Beau Mauseth wrestled an instant classic in the final match of the night. Scoreless after two rounds, both wrestlers recorded reversals in the third round and Jones eked out an escape with 20 seconds left to win 3-2.
But the three-point decision wasn’t enough to complete the upset.
“Othello has a rich tradition and you’ve got to respect that,” Moses Lake head coach Jaime Garza said. “I knew they had several guys coming back. I think they had seven state participants and we had four, and with that being said, I know it’s different classifications, but they take pride in their wrestling program and that’s something that I admire about the Columbia Basin.”