Jesus Dominguez’s primary objective was to keep the lead for Southeast Whitfield’s wrestling team.
But he did one better, and the Raiders cruised from there.
In the first round of Thursday’s five-team Conasauga Cup duals inside Murray County’s Kenneth Ross Gymnasium, Southeast rallied from a 15-point deficit against Northwest Whitfield and clinched a 43-33 victory with Dominguez’s pin in the 126-pound weight class.
The Raiders then defeated North Murray 63-18 for their first Conasauga Cup championship — at least since the event was resumed in 2005-06 and perhaps ever. The Bruins finished second, the Mountaineers were third, Murray County took fourth and Dalton placed fifth in the annual event featuring the varsity programs from Murray and Whitfield counties.
Coahulla Creek chose not to participate in this year’s event.
Northwest’s A.J. Orozco (195) pinned Omar Toche to give his side a 27-12 lead in the opening round, but Southeast’s Marvin Morales (220) won by forfeit and kickstarted the Raiders’ push. Carlos Fraire (285) and Omar Ruiz (113) then won via pin while Aaron Thomas (120) won by major decision.
With Southeast ahead 34-33, Dominguez faced Dylan Renard. The senior Raider was ahead in the third period and had his team staring at a four-point dual lead when he landed a sudden pin on Renard. It resulted in the maximum individual contribution to the team’s tally — six points — and left the Bruins with no chance for a retaliation comeback.
“I was really working for a pin more than anything else,” said Dominguez, who also won via pin in the finals against North Murray’s Micah Burgess to complete a two-win tournament.
Since the competition resumed in 2005, Murray County has won the turtle-decorated trophy four times with Northwest and Dalton each winning it once. The Cats claimed it last season.
Now Southeast adds its name to the list, and “fighting back through adversity” is a main reason why, Raiders coach Michael Herndon said.
“That was our biggest hurtle,” he added, speaking about the win against Northwest. “There’s no easy matchup, but we knew they’d be a challenge. ... The seniors we had to win by pin, did.”
Fraire, Ruiz, Thomas, Lester Paucay (152) and Austin Allen (170) also each won twice for Southeast, which won the first five matches of the final against North Murray by pin and got shoulders to the mat in 10 of its 11 wins.
Paucay pinned Tyler McKenzie, Dylan Burch (160) pinned Juan Salaises, Allen pinned Christopher Gross, Tanner Acosta (182) pinned Joshua Jones, Omar Toche (195) pinned Vincent Hidalgo, Fraire pinned Blane Anderson, Ruiz pinned Luis Velez, Thomas won 10-3 against Brett Bishop, Dominguez pinned Micah Burgess, Marco Gallardo (132) pinned Francisco Guzman and Tyler Brown (138) pinned Juan Delgadillo.
North Murray’s three wins — Alejandro Fraire (220) against Morales, Alex Gambino (106) over Thomas Smith and Leonardo Lechuga (145) versus Logan Harris — each were by pin.
“We won some against Southeast,” North Murray coach Steven Colley said. “I’m getting a lot of young guys on the mat. That’s all I care about.”
The Mountaineers, who had a bye in the first round, chose not to wrestle Northwest for a “true” second place after the loss to Southeast.
North Murray defeated Murray County 40-31 in the round prior to the finals in another matchup that came down to the end. With the Mountaineers only ahead three points in the final match, Delgadillo pinned Jonathon York. North Murray trailed 21-10 early but got three straight pins from Jeremiah Watkins (220), Anderson and Gambino to take the lead.
Northwest bounced back from its first-round defeat and beat Dalton 42-27 in the dual that left the loser in fifth place and Murray County 51-27 in the dual that left the loser in fourth.
Still, the loss to the Raiders hurt, especially when coach Allen Tucker thinks about the five pins the Bruins allowed.
“If we get majored or decisions, we’re in the match,” he said.
Murray County won its first-round matchup 39-34 against Dalton. Chavita Perez (160) pinned Guztavo Diaz and Clay Thornbury (195) pinned William Braun to lead the Indians. Murray County coach Chris Thornbury said his focus is more on his team’s overall performance than the final scores.
“We wrestled North Murray a couple weeks ago and it was 61-13,” he said. “This time it came down to the last match.”
Dalton led 18-0 early but suffered three forfeit losses to Murray County’s Kevin Chavez (170), Annibal Reymundo (106) and Austin McCall (113). Christopher Hicks (285), who was filling in for Larry Fernandez — the senior missed the event to attend to a personal matter — lost to Murray County’s Allen Roberts by decision.
“(Hicks) did great,” Cats coach Michael Keefe said. “He kept himself in the match. He’s only been wrestling for two weeks. ... I’ve seen some good things and some bad things. We lost to Murray County before, and I think it was worse (that time). So we’re fighting a little bit more.”