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Grappling under the spotlight with ETWC and ESPN

By Hector Ramirez, Special to La Prensa

The East Toledo Wrestling Club (ETWC) was at it again during the April 1st weekend.

The local wrestling club, for youths aged five to 14, participated in the Grade School Championships at Bowling Green State University , an event that drew about 750 wrestlers from five districts. 

The top five in each district qualified for this tournament and ETWC had 21 qualify with three as alternates. The unique thing about this tournament is that it was filmed by ESPN!

ESPN had wanted to do a documentary on youth wrestling for some time, according to a network spokesman. A representative went on-line to investigate some well-known clubs. After speaking with others, he was directed to
Ohio as having some of the best wrestling in the nation. An Ohio website referred him to ETWC as being one of the most competitive.

ESPN decided to send a commentator and two film crew members to the club’s Thursday practice. They filmed and interviewed the coaches and athletes during the two-hour practice, went to weigh-ins for this weekend’s tournament and filmed the entire tournament (both Saturday and Sunday). As always, ETWC had a very successful showing at the event.

Last year ETWC had three wrestlers who placed in the top five: Jerome Robinson (first), Tim Prittke (second) and Bryce Castilleja (fifth). This year we had a multitude of qualifiers and placers.

The following wrestlers qualified: Jaxon Davis, Nick Kern, Kyle McGibbeny, Ron Ramsden, Jacob Rettig, James Reddig, Zack Kern, Esteban Niño, Chase Leedy, Bryce Castilleja, Jarrod Davis, Jay Niño, Antonio Zapata, Pete Zapata, and Christian Peters.

Placing eighth: Chad Sonnenberg, Division 3, 100 pounds; Tim Prittke, Divison 3, 110 pounds; placing seventh: Ryan Vlinski; placing sixth: and Michael Reese, Division 2, 90 pounds.

Taking a strong fifth: Jeremiah Anderson, Division 1, 55 pounds; and taking a strong fourth: Nathanial Hagan, Division 1, 50 pounds.

Three ETWC athletes were in the finals: Ed Silva, Chance Sonnenberg, and Mario Guillen.

Ed Silva finished second in the Division 2, 90-pound weight class, to the delight of his coaches.

Sonnenberg won the Division 1, 85-pound crown. Chance dominated his opponents in the last two matches, pinning his opposite number in the finals.

Mario Guillen had several very exciting matches en route to his state title. He beat four district champions, two of whom had been projected as possible state winners. The championship match went back and forth as Mario apparently took the lead after being tied 8 – 8 in the third period. He put his opponent on his back for three points—according to one referee. However, a second referee waved off the points because he saw Mario lack hands before he turned the other wrestler.

So his opponent was up by one point when Mario turned him again with only seconds left. This time the points did count and Mario went on to secure his division 1, 45 pounds title much to the delight of the heavily partisan ETWC crowd.

Mario, just seven years old, is a fierce competitor. He obviously has great technique, strength, stamina, and athletic ability. But what sets him apart from his competitors is that he refuses to break mentally. He will keep wrestling until that last second of the match has ended.

Felipe Martínez (an ex-ETWC wrestler, who now competes unattached) also lived up to his billing. He put on a clinic as coaches like to say. He destroyed his opponents on the way to his Division 3, 90 pound state title. Felipe had two pins and two technical falls, one coming in the championship match. Felipe, an excellent technician, routed a very worthy opponent 17-0.

“Felipe has a way of making a very good wrestler look very bad,” said one of the coaches present at the event.

ETWC has been successful over the years because of its volunteers—coaches, staff and parents. The coaches are: Gary Burgess, Earl and Hector Ramirez, Ray Castilleja, Tony Kern, Steve Anderson, Chris McGibbeny, Jeff Ludlow, Herman Abitua, Donny Burgess, Ed Silva, Sr., and Mike Coopman. The program coordinators are Tracy Garufos and Tammy Lorton. And, of course, family support has been invaluable.


Editor’s Note: Hector Ramirez has been an assistant coach with ETWC since its founding 13 years ago. La Prensa reporter Fletcher Word contributed to this feature.







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