HOLTVILLE — It wasn’t the savory, slow roasted, charred taste of fall-off the bone ribs from the Holtville cook-off, but instead the taste of victory that filled the Holtville High gymnasium Friday night after the finals concluded in the 53rd annual Holtville Rotary Invitational wrestling tournament.
The event drew a packed house where everyone in attendance got to partake in the excitement of high school wrestling at its finest.
The finals of the tournament featured six wrestlers from the Imperial Valley area, and four of those competitors kept a championship in their home county.
Of the six, one in particular, had been waiting his whole career for a moment like this.
“This was the first time I’ve ever won a tournament,” Brawley Union High senior 172-pound wrestler Luis Chavez said. “It was brutally hard all weekend, but it was just all amazing at the same time.”
Chavez had one of the closer matches of the night as he escaped with a 4-2 win over San Marcos High’s Denzalle Hollingswarth in front of a home crowd.
“It was awesome seeing everyone cheering for me and having my family there and winning for the first time was just indescribable,” said an emotional Chavez.
Chavez saw two other teammates win championships as junior Jacob Moreno beat Eastlake’s Benjamin Martinez, 8-0, and senior Joseph Meier returned to the finals and was finally able to earn a tournament title at 108-pounds.
“This was my third time wrestling here, and last year I just remembered how painful it was losing in the finals in front of the home crowd,” Meier said. “That loss was still in my mind a little this weekend, but I knew I had to just go in and do the best I could and win.”
Meier did just that as he pinned Mar Vista’s Christian Winnie in the third period to capture the elusive title.
“It just felt great, I made some mistakes in the match, but I was still able to get the win,” he said. “It’s a different atmosphere here from the other San Diego tournament. You have more friends and family and other Valley teams watching and cheering you on, so it’s pretty special.”
The night was made extra special for Meier as he was also named the Most Outstanding Lower Weight competitor.
Brawley had five of the six finalists with the sixth being from Calexico High.
The Bulldog’s Robert Tabarez was no stranger to the Holtville finals as he won the tournament last year. As he returned for his senior year, he wanted another championship.
“This tournament is always very important to me, and so far this year hasn’t gone the way I’ve wanted and I’ve been struggling,” Tabarez admitted.
In the finals, Tabarez beat Rancho Bernardo’s Adrian Charbono, a familiar opponent that he has lost to already this year.
“I just wanted to switch it up on him with different stances, styles and attacks to make him guess and it worked and I got the win,” Tabarez said. “Now I’m on top doing what I’m doing and it’s going to be just relentlessness from here on out.”
The Holtville tournament usually stands as the last tournament before the postseason meets get underway. Although Brawley only managed a third place finish behind champion Rancho Bernardo and San Marcos, they are ready to switch gears to full speed.
“For me it’s time to start pushing this team to get ready to go for CIF,” Meier said. “We didn’t win here, but we need to keep working and go out and win CIF… do what Brawley wrestling is known to do.”[envira-gallery id=”71695″]