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The race to catch up with Los Padres League wrestling leader Morro Bay now has an optimistic Nipomo team aiming to close in on the Pirates.

In a three-way contest on the mat at Santa Maria High, the Titans edged the Saints 39-36 before Santa Maria redeemed itself against Cabrillo 54-14.

Titans head coach Kevin Kreowski was all smiles after winning the first bout with the host team Saints – and said he felt encouraged by his team’s chances to catch the league leading Pirates.

“If we can finish and win the rest of our duals and do well against Morro Bay in the LPL finals (which NHS will host on Feb. 7), it should be a lot of fun. We had to give up five weight classes to Morro Bay and the score was 39-29 (in the last meeting). It should be neck-and-neck and that league final should be a blast,” Krowski said.

Right away, the Titans came out winning the first three contests in the early meeting – winning in the 106, 113 and 120-pound classes. Then in the 132-pound division, Luis Diego-Riquelme used reversals to win his contest.

Santa Maria, however, mounted a comeback through both Frank Lopez (170) and Gabe Bravo (182), as both wrestling stars executed pins to win their contests and tie things up at 30-30.

Nipomo sealed the win with a strong outing from 220-pounder Brayden Groshart – who is still learning the sport of wrestling, Kreowski said. Groshart, who was last seen in the quarterback rotation for the Titans varsity football team, scored a pin against Eduardo Roman to help lift the Titans to the win.

“I got him to come out and this is his first year on the wrestling mat. That was just amazing. He did a great job and it went down to the end,” Kreowski said.

The wrestling coach gave credit to the Saints and how they battled against them, saying “I tip my hat to SM. The coaches did an amazing job with moving their lineup because we had to give up three weights/spots. And they made it really tight. It’s great competition. We’re lucky to come out of this.”

After the Titans contest wrapped up, Santa Maria honored its senior class and their parents before tangling with Cabrillo. The Saints would take on a short-handed CHS team that ended up having several forfeits on the night including the heavyweight division. Elijah Araujo, Carlos Ramirez and Eluterio Edralin were three Saints who won by pinfall.

Ramirez took on a young CHS wrestler in Kayshawn Gilbert – driving his opponent back with his legs before mounting Gilbert for the pin, which made it 30-14 in favor of Santa Maria.

Edralin had, arguably, the most physical confrontation against Cabrillo’s Sam Hough. The back-and-forth contest ended with Edralin lifting Hough before planting him on the mat – then securing the pin in the 195-pound match.

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Cabrillo head coach Mike Wallace, whose brother Brian is the athletic director at SMHS, pointed out that the forfeits had an effect on his team.

“We got a lot of forfeits that we can’t recover from. But my experienced wrestlers won their matches,” Wallace said.

Those grapplers were Riley Daltorio (120), Cruz Smith (145) and Christian Reyes (138) – the latter ended up erasing a 5-0 deficit to win his contest via pin.

The final match of the evening saw SMHS’s Alexis Garcia tangling with Cabrillo’s state qualifier from a year ago in the 106-pound class: Lesly Hernandez. Garcia wound up getting the better end of the contest with his victory by points 18-10, but Wallace came out pleased with how Hernandez fared in a rare match against a male wrestler.

“She didn’t give up. But he didn’t give up. It was a good match,” Wallace said.