Christopher's Jimmie Lopez works to pin Watsonville's Dominic

The Christopher High wrestling team’s expectations are through the roof this season. Its list of goals starts with a clean run through the Monterey Bay League. Priority No. 1 looked to be in jeopardy as a short-handed Cougars squad entered Wednesday night’s dual meet against visiting Watsonville.

Not so fast.

Ricardo Bribiescas said he would’ve preferred to show off some more of his take down moves. But hey, he’ll settle for a meet-clinching, first-period pin anyway.

“What was I thinking? How should I celebrate,” Bribiescas said, now able to smile after his pin 40 seconds into the first period gave the Cougars a hold-your-breath 39-35 victory over the Wildcatz, keeping the undefeated (2-0) record in tact.

Bribiescas’ 138-pound match was the night’s finale. And as he waited patiently for his turn, he watched a Cougars’ 33-18 lead, established after Jimmie Lopez – the section’s No. 1-ranked 106-pounder – put away his opponent via second-period pin in the 113-pound match, dwindle down to 33-30, eventually disappear and morph into a 35-33 score in favor of the Wildcatz.

Missing key components in the form of Raul Meza, Austin Reichert and Tomas Zamora, the situation unfolded as head coach Alecxis Lara said he figured it would after closely examining his makeshift lineup and calculating possible outcomes. Lara, though, also knew he had the right guy on the mat in crunch time.

“Ricardo is one of our stars. He has put in the work all season. We can count on him for big points,” Lara said. “He went out there, took care of business and really showed his leadership skills.”

Lara also had to count on a few junior varsity grapplers, who were bumped up to fill the voids left by the injured starters. One match prior to Bribiescas, junior John Hodges took Roger Contreras the distance. Although he dropped the match by technical fall, holding off the pin kept the Cougars in control of their own destiny entering the final match.

“I did not want to get pinned,” Hodges said. “I was just trying to stay off my back. I wanted to do more, work a few more of my moves, but cardio is my down fall right now.”

Hodges’ efforts didn’t go unnoticed.

“Worse-case scenario that guy pins us and it puts us down by three,” Lara explained. “We knew Ricardo was good enough to win, but if he wins by decision that gives us just three points and we still tie the match. So with John, the main goal at that time, versus that stud, was to not get pinned. He wrestled his butt off. He didn’t get the win but he still helped the team out.”

It was 9-0 after a forfeit and decision victory by Edgar Cuevas at 152-pounds. Johnny Cortez (170) padded the advantage when leading 9-2 was awarded the win after his opponent was forced to take an injury default midway through the second period. Following Watsonville wins from David Ceja (8-4 decision) and Josh Cervantes (fall, 3:40) made it 15-12 CHS, two straight pins by John Riffle, who efficiently discarded his challenger 25 seconds into the first, and Steven White (heavyweight), gave the Cougars a little more room, 27-12. The two team’s traded six-point pins – Lopez’s being one of them, and giving CHS the sizable 33-18 lead nine matches into the 14-match meet. But that’s where the fun began.

Watsonville picked up 17 straight points over the next three matches to set the stage for the finale.

Lara exhaled a sigh of relief afterwards, pleased with the way the team rallied but disappointed that the wrestlers put themselves into that nail-biting situation.

“We are ranked seventh in the CCS, we have to start performing like we are ranked seventh,” he said. “That’s the message I sent to them. Even though we got the win, they kept the match way too close. We are getting caught in too many mistakes that we should have at this point of the season.

“But they are training well. They just have to put it together on the mat.”

• The Cougars host the second annual Bert Mar Invitational on Saturday. The one-day tournament will feature 27 teams from the area. Wrestling is scheduled to start at 9 a.m. The finals are slated for 5 p.m.

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