Man, I'll Tell You What
113 final was like a moviePrior to the start of the Culver Wrestling Invitational weight-bracket finals, the song "I got a feeling that tonight's gonna be a good night" by the Black Eyed Peas blasted from speakers to pump up a packed house.
Little did anyone know just how good of a night it would be for Jefferson County wrestlers. The group of locals from Culver and Madras high schools had 11 in the finals, and eight walked away as champions of the Invitational in their respective weight brackets -- the most ever in an event that's been going strong for 30-plus years.
The night, however, belonged to Madras' Brandon Bailey and Culver's Noe Gonzalez, whom electrified the building with their efforts in the 113-pound final.
"I could not ask more in terms of an entertainment factor due to the second match of he night between Brandon and Noe," CHS head wrestling coach J.D. Alley said. "I think you could have heard the cheers at my house three miles away."
The match was sensational, like a Disney movie featuring two heavyweight fighters with everything on the line. Only in this match, the two wrestlers combined for no more than 230 pounds, but they went after one another with everything they had in them.
Gonzalez entered the match as the favorite. The sophomore placed second in the Class 2A/1A state tournament last season and is well known in Jefferson County for his wrestling abilities. Bailey, a freshman from California, entered as the unknown, but he made a name for himself last Saturday.
Bailey quickly turned a calm crowd filled with anticipation into a boisterous crowd on their feet when he scored two points on a reversal and three for a near fall in the first period. He used a firm headlock that had Gonzalez gasping for air, while desperately trying to avoid a pin. It seemed like Gonzalez was on his back for 15 minutes - cue the Disney music -- as Bailey squeezed on his neck and the official batted at Gonazalez's left hand that was gouging Bailey's face. Time expired on the first round and Gonzalez was penalized two points for his hand movement and trailed 7-2.
In the second period, Bailey scored two takedowns and again earned points for a near fall, but Gonzalez would not surrender. The Bulldog was outscored 7-5 in the period, but scored a reversal late in the period that sent the orange and black faithful into a frenzy, although Gonzalez trailed 14-7 entering the final period.
In the third and final period, Bailey opened with an escape, but Gonzalez scored a take down, followed by two near falls to make the score 15-13 in favor of Bailey. Blood was visable on each wrestler, the two were lathered in sweet and both were oxygen deprived. As the time ticked off in the final minute, the building shook from excitement as two Jefferson County wrestlers clung to one another under the spotlight. Bailey found a way to escape in the final seconds for a 16-13 victory, but both wrestlers collapsed at center mat when the match ended -- exhausted from their efforts.
The two received a resounding ovation, and Bailey was crowned champion.
Bailey proved himself with his victory. Gonzalez, who refused to give up, also proved himself in an epic match that sums up what the Culver Invitational is all about.