It was another solid night for the Santa Barbara boys wrestling team and a historic one for the girls wrestling team.
One week after a convincing win at San Marcos, the Dons were able to keep that momentum against Cabrillo Wednesday night at JR Richards Gymnasium, defeating the Conquistadores 51-28 to improve to 3-1 in Channel League play.
“We did exactly what we had to do. We took care of pins that we needed to, we were in the right places. We lost to Cabrillo last year and now we won and so their hard work is paying off again,” Santa Barbara coach Adrian Macias said.
“It’s nice to see this team get together and understand that they’re leaving a legacy behind for a program that they’re creating themselves.”
On the girls’ side, Santa Barbara and Cabrillo were tied at 36-all when the match was said and done, but the Dons had more wins by pin (4-0) to earn their first-ever victory in a dual match.
“They have been putting in a lot of work. We have been working hard to build this program and this is the first year we had an actual varsity lineup for the girls and it’s great to see their work paying off,” Dons’ coach Ben Vigil said.
Santa Barbara lost it’s first dual-match against Lompoc earlier in the season, though that loss was due mostly to forfeits. In fact, the one girl who did wrestle for the Dons, Pepper Marks, won her match.
One girl who has dedicated her entire high school life to the program, however, is Al’Asha Aparicio.
The senior captain was Santa Barbara’s only wrestler for a long time.
“I was pretty intimidated when I first started, so just seeing that we have a girls team now, it just really makes me happy,” Aparicio said.
That never stopped her from having success, however, as she has made the CIF individuals and the Masters individuals the last two seasons. Aparicio said the only reason she joined at first was to get stronger for softball, but now she has fallen in love with the sport.
“It was weird at first, but I clicked with some of the boys early and they made me feel so comfortable and I just stayed and it has worked out,” Aparicio said.
Aparicio picked up a win by pin on Wednesday for the Dons, as well as Pepper Marks and Christina Zambrano.
On the boys side, the Dons were able to dominate Wednesday behind five pins against the Conqs including a key one from co-captain Logan O’Keefe.
The junior was facing off against a familiar foe in Trey Robison in the 145-pound match. Last season, O’Keefe faced Robison in the Channel League finals.
A win by O’Keefe would have sent him to CIF Individuals. Instead, Robison handed the then-sophomore a 10-5 defeat, squashing his chances of moving on to CIF.
Little did O’Keefe know, however, that loss would be the best thing that happened to him.
“Going into that match I was wondering, ‘Do I really want to continue with wrestling?,’ and then he beat me and I realized how much I want this, how much I don’t want to lose or ever have that happen again,” O’Keefe said.
After competiting in track, the junior said he quickly made his way back to the mat, only this time he gave it his full focus.
“I have really just changed everything to devote my life to wrestling, I haven’t gone to any parties or done anything like that, it’s all about wrestling,” O’Keefe said.
The re-dedication to the sport has certainly paid off for the junior, especially on Wednesday night.
O’Keefe dominated his match against Robison, taking a 4-1 lead after the first period with a takedown and a two-second near fall. In the second period, O’Keefe scored two more takedowns and another two-second near fall to lead 9-1.
In the final period, the junior was desperate to earn a pin but with two more takedowns, he earned a 13-1 lead and looked like he would have to settle for a major decision win.
With the clock winding down under 10 seconds, however, O’Keefe kept working and earned a pin just as the buzzer sounded to give his team six points.
“It felt really good to get that. I was searching for the pin the whole match. I thought I had at the end of the first, I thought I had in the middle of the second but then to get it at the last minute was good,” O’Keefe said.
After the win, O’Keefe blew kisses to the crowd, earning him an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.
“I blew one to my dad, to my mom, to my history teacher and my friends. One to each. It was unfortunate (to get that penalty) but I respected his decision either way,” O’Keefe said.
Since losing to Robison last season, O’Keefe has tallied three straight wins over Robison. This year, he has amassed an overall record of 15-5. The junior is nowhere near satisfied, however.
“My goal is to win Channel League, place as best as I can and see if I can go to Masters. The overall goal is state but for now, we’re just focusing on what comes next,” O’Keefe said.
The night began with a pin by junior Brandon Lozcano but then a pin by Cabrillo’s Ryley Daltorio tied the score at 12-12.
After both teams exchanged a pair of forfeits, Santa Barbara’s Oscar Munoz picked up a fall to put his team in front 24-18.
O’Keefe’s win then gave the Dons a 30-18 lead and helped them start taking command in the contest.
Later in the match, a pin by the Conqs’ Angel Martinez helped Cabrillo stay in the match at 39-28. If the Conqs could have pulled out two wins by fall, they would have won the match.
Instead, the Dons’ Michael Esparza-Loza and Jorge Contreras both picked up wins by pin to seal the match.
The Dons will close out the regular season next week at home against Dos Pueblos. A win would likely give Santa Barbara at least a second-place finish in the Channel League, making them an alternate for the CIF team duals.
It would be the first time in school history the Dons made CIF as a team.