<b>Five Counties Wrestling Tournament Recap</b>

The finals of this weekend's Five Counties Wrestling Tournament were filled with unexpected results. The "Beast of the West," held at Fountain Valley High School, featured a number of the top seeds, nay -- a number of the top-ranked wrestlers in California -- losing in the finals. Of the 14 weight classes, only six No. 1 seeds were crowned champions.

In the marquee bout of the evening, Northview's No. 2-seeded Caleb Flores came out on top against Fremont's No. 1 Filip Novachkov in dramatic fashion. Down 4-3, Flores seemed to get a match-deciding break when Novachkov was called for locking hands with 50 seconds left in the third period. The penalty point tied the bout, 4-4, and if Flores could escape, he'd emerge the winner. But instead, Novachkov rode him out and forced an overtime. After neither could manage a takedown in the first sudden victory, the choice went to Flores. He could either pick top or bottom for the final OT. And despite Novachkov's success in riding him in the third, Flores chose down and escaped in the final seconds to win 5-4.

About the decision to pick bottom, Flores said "It was tough, but I trusted my coaches. My coaches said I should go down, I listened to them and it worked out for me."

The match didn't go as Flores had planned. After getting the opening takedown, Flores released Novachkov at the beginning of the second period, hoping to earn more points from their feet. But instead, Novachkov got a takedown of his own.

"I felt good enough to take him down again. I took him down in the first period and I felt if I did it once I could do it again. That's been my strategy all year long. And he just caught me on a nice pass-by and got me good. But I came back and finished the match. Somehow, someway I found a way to win, you know?"

About a rematch, Flores said, "Most likely, it's gonna happen again. So whatever comes, comes, but I gotta train hard because I know he's going to be training hard."

Another dramatic bout was won by Flores' teammate, 140-pounder Shad Manigault. In the third period, Manigault was up 3-1 on Bakersfield's Anthony Box (the No. 1 seed) while both were on their feet. Box suddenly got in deep on duck-under for a potential match-tying takedown. But before Box could finish, Manigault hit a magnificent counter and put Box on his back for a pin.

When asked if he was worried when Box began the move, Manigault was quite frank. "Yeah, I was. I felt a little shaky, but when I got in control, I knew it was going to happen. I just felt it. We drill that, but I don't really do it. But we keep drilling it so it sets it in our mind. So I know it's there when I get in that position."

Billy Murphy (photo by John Sachs)
One finals match that went as expected was won by Hughson's Billy Murphy, considered by many to be the best 130-pound wrestler in the country. Not satisfied to hold onto an 8-2 lead late in the third period, Murphy released Buchanan's Josh Betancur, took him down and then turned him for back points on the way to 13-3 win. Murphy's punishing style is sure to be a great fit next year at Virginia Tech, where he'll be coached by one of most famous brawlers in the sport, 1996 Olympic Gold medalist, Tom Brands.

At 112, Cavalry Chapel's Justin Paulsen was a surprise 5-4 winner over Campolindo's Nikko Triggas. Not only had Triggas collected a number of impressive victories this season, but also became the only wrestler in the tournament to pin each and every opponent on the way to the finals. The non-stop scrambling of Paulsen and Triggas in the third period engendered much applause from the audience.

At 171, Central Catholic's Louis Bland, arguably the best sophomore in the country, escaped with a 6-5 victory over Gilroy's Hunter Collins. Up 2-0 in the second, Bland was suddenly reversed and then put to his back. A nosebleed call stopped the action and Bland got back in control, scoring a winning takedown with just 12 seconds left. However, a non-call for a last second escape by Collins was quite unpopular with the crowd.

Although they had only one finalist, (125-pound champ Todd Schravien) Poway used balance to wrap up the team title before the finals even began. They dominated the 86-team field, finishing with eight placers (a first, three thirds, three sevenths, and an eighth place finish) and 190 points, well ahead of second place Buchanan (151.5)

Tournament director and FVHS coach Brad Woodbury deserves a lot of credit for organizing this event. The presentation leading up to the finals featured some of the most spectacular fanare ever seen at a high school wrestling tournament. A laser light show during introductions (which included a DJ, massive sound system, and video presentation) made it feel like James Brown might emerge from the sea of dry ice instead of the finalists.

Finals Results:

103 -- Boris Novachkov FRM dec. Thomas Williams SOH, 6-2
112 -- Justin Paulsen CCH dec. Nikko Triggas CAM, 5-4
119 -- Caleb Flores NVW dec. Filip Novachkov FRM, 5-4
125 -- Todd Schavrien POW dec. Gabriel Suarez CIM, 5-2
130 -- Billy Murphy HUG maj. dec. Josh Betancur, 13-3
135 -- Chris Drouin CHA maj. dec. Adin Duenas GIL, 5-2
140 -- Shad Manigault NVW pinned Anthony Box BAK, 4:47
145 -- Tony Webber BAK dec. John Luscombe TL, 5-3
152 -- Luke Manuel NU dec. Jason Welch LL, 7-4
160 -- Matt Boger BUC pinned Justin Danz PIN, 1:00
171 -- Louis Bland CCA dec. Hunter Collins GIL, 6-5
189 -- Abraham Otrambo LOA dec. Anthony Castillo TUR, 2-0
215 -- Ryan Flores BUC dec. Jack Clayton VAC, 8-3
Hwt -- Chris Lewis CW dec. Kurt Kilmet CAR, 7-4

Team Standings:

1. Poway 190.0
2. Buchanan 151.5
3. Northview 139.0
4. Bakersfield 128.0
5. Freemont 107.0
6. Vacaville 106.5
7. Temecula Valley 103.0
8. Cimarron Memorial 94.5
9. Cavalry Chapel 94.5
10. Clovis West 92.5


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