MOSES LAKE — The grind of the road and a roster battling the flu bug finally caught up with the Big Bend wrestling team on Saturday when it walked into a buzzsaw against Warner Pacific University out of Portland.
The Knights steamrolled through the Vikings lineup for a 33-9 non-conference win over Big Bend, which wrestled Washington State and Montana Tech in Pullman the night before. It was a grind to get home and take on NAIA Warner Pacific Saturday morning in DeVries Activity Center, but the first-year program wrestled well in spots.
Roman Porter, a 174-pound freshman from Reno, Nev., collected nearfall points in first period on his way to a 11-6 win and the Vikings’ only victory outside of a forfeit.
“I just wanted to go out and get the first take down and get it started. I wrestle better when I’m not thinking, just reacting,” Porter said. “Once I started getting a feel for college wrestling, I was able to push myself and practice harder and harder in the practice room. It’s starting to show on the mat.”
Eddie Rodriguez, from Royal City, had Louise Palos on his back for nearfall points as time ran out in a 12-10 loss. If the former Royal Knight glanced up at the referee, waiting for the hand slap to give him the fall, but he didn’t get the call to complete the come back. Rodriguez chipped his way back from a 12-4 deficit going into the third period with a display of grit and determination.
“He was a strong guy with a good counter to my shots,” Rodriguez said. “But I was able to take him down, I crossed face and turned him and thought I had the pin.
“Today, I feel good about the last round, but not the first two. But I’m getting used to college wrestling and working hard.”
This season is the return of Big Bend wrestling after a lengthy layoff and the program is laying the foundation for big things to come. The Vikings will host the NWCA State Championships Feb. 10 at DeVries Activity Center.
“I feel like we’re building something here,” said Porter.
First-year head coach Jose Tanguma, a three-time 1A state champion from Warden, agreed.
“We’re laying the foundation and the kids are starting to understand that college is a whole different level,” Tanguma said. “They’re learning how to travel, how to compete and we’re getting better with hard work.”
Big Bend will add former Tri-State champion Chandler Fluaitt to its roster next week. The former Moses Lake heavyweight worked construction for a few months after graduation, but now he’s going to take his best shot with Big Bend, which wrestles in the NWCA Northwest Conference.
“I have a chance to come back and wrestle, I missed it,” Fluaitt said. “I just want to be the best at what I do. I expect to face the skill level I’ve always seen. Getting back into it, I need to refocus on getting back in shape and getting my mind right for the postseason.”
Once Fluaitt gets his 10 practices in, he will be eligible to participate. Tanguma expects to have him ready for the NWAC State Championships in February.