MOSES LAKE — The circle tends to get a little smaller when you step into it in front of the hometown Moses Lake faithful with the VIP couch just steps away, the state championship banners all but waving in the wind like the Stars and Stripes on Memorial Day.
They’re loud, they’re proud and when you wrestle for Moses Lake High School, a guy sure doesn’t want to let them down.
The No. 14-ranked Chiefs were about 20 combined seconds from a totally different outcome in Wednesday night’s 40-21 loss to No. 5 Sunnyside. They dropped a couple of overtime matches, had their chances in a couple of others. They’re close, Chiefs coach Jaime Garza said, but they’re not there yet.
One of those matches that went right down to the final seconds was at 120 pounds, featuring No. 3-ranked Jonathan Tanguma and No. 8 EJ Villanueva of Sunnyside. The Sunnyside freshman took a 6-4 led into the final two minutes. But Tanguma gave Moses Lake fans a sample of his competitiveness.
The Chiefs sophomore blew out of the referee’s position for the reversal to make it a one-point match, then got the takedown with 50 seconds remaining to take a 7-6 lead with less than a minute in what had been an electric bout between two, young, experienced, ranked wrestlers,
“I struggled on bottom tonight. But I needed score, so I took bottom going into the final period,” Tanguma said. “We were both pushing ourselves to have good match and the crowd was in it.”
Riley Burgess had pinned Sam Guerrero in 113-pound battle the match before and the Chiefs closed to 31-21. Tanguma was on the verge of closing the gap with two matches remaining. But Villanueva got to his legs, catching the Chiefs sophomore off balance for the final takedown and what proved to be the game-winner with eight seconds left.
“The crowd makes it exciting to wrestle here, but what sucks about is … the crowd,” said Tanguma, glancing around the gym as his teammates rolled up the mat and the fans shuffled out. “It’s very nerve-wracking, you don’t want to lose in front of that many people. Tonight, it was a matter of he was the one that was attacking at the end and I got caught off balance.”
He’s a Chief and what he was saying is that he doesn’t want to lose. But since he did, better now than at Tri-State or at the Mat Classic.
“It was a humbling moment to see what I have to do to make myself better,” Tanguma said. “This was a test of how good I am under pressure and what I need to change moving forward.”
Garza agreed. His team and his 120-pounder need to decide if they want to make a push for the top of the podium at the Tacoma Dome or if they’re good being top 10.
“(Villanueva) is a tough kid and when you go into a match with him you better be ready. It was a good little wakeup call for Jonathan,” he said. “It’s not that he wrestled bad, it’s just that he was ahead with 12 seconds left. I thought he hesitated.
“He has to, all our guys really, have to figure out where we are at? What’s our identity? Are we willing to go down mediocre or are we going to take a run at the podium. So this was a good lesson tonight.”