By Lenny Dykes —

TEMECULA — The ring was on the line Wednesday night as No. 4 in the state Temecula Valley Golden Bears hosted No. 5 in the state Palm Desert Aztecs. The Golden Bears came into the night having already defeated the Aztecs in a prior dual. But tonight, the CIF SS title was on the line and the pressure was on. Temecula head coaches Arnold Alpert and Lyndon Campbell were looking to add to their overflowing championship resume by adding to their 12 CIF titles. Palm Desert looks to capitalize on their program’s rise and add to their 2020 CIF title. This night was historic for both teams, as both are in the midst of record-breaking seasons.

Coaches Arnold Alpert, center, and Lyndon Campbell give advice during last week’s CIF Southern Section Dual Meet Wrestling Division 1 Finals against Palm Desert. Valley News/David Canales photo

The two teams were all warmed up, “Brohymn” by Pennywise concluded, and Brock Mantanona of Palm Desert took the circle, facing Temecula Valley’s Nathan Perryman (126). The two young athletes come from wrestling families. Brock’s older brothers are mainstay wrestlers at University of Oklahoma and Nathan’s father is a former wrestler at Arizona State. Not to mention the older brothers are currently two of the best in the state. The matchup jolted into action immediately with a flurry of shot attempts by Perryman. Mantanona showed off his pedigree and won the scrambles. Mantanona ended the match early with a pin, sending a clear message that they are for real.

Temecula, a team that will never roll over or be intimidated, sent out Devin Avedissian and he responded by defeating Ethan Guillermo (132), 6-3, with solid inside singles and a smothering top game. He ended the night with a crowd roaring blast-double that marked the first eruption from the home crowd. Abel Gaitan, one of Temecula’s fab five, fifth ranked in the Top 10 in state, welcomed the challenge of facing one of the nation’s top wrestlers in Buea Mantanona of Palm Desert. Mantanona showed off his freakish speed and Gaitan responded with scramble attempts. The two covered the entirety of the mat. In the end, Mantanona was too much on top and won the match 9-3. Golden Bear coach Arnold Alpert hyped the crowd knowing the next few matches could be the decider of the dual. Alec Peralta, Bill Takara, MJ Gaitan and Matt York took care of business by winning. MJ Gaitan once again reminded the crowd that he is unstoppable by showing off his own version of the Hulk smash. However, Peralta and York were unable to secure the precious team points by pinning their opponents. The Aztecs knew they could not be pinned, the grittiness of David Alonzo of Palm Desert was a prime example of this. He squirmed for three rounds, stacked in vicious cradles, but he never wavered.

The Temecula Valley run was ended, and the Palm Desert onslaught began. The Aztecs ripped off 3 wins in a row, all by pins. Temecula forfeited to the No. 1 heavyweight in the state, Daniel Herrera of Palm Desert. The score sat at 34-23 with the Golden Bears needing to win the next three matches. Not a problem for the powerful Golden Bears. They earn their ranking by being as good as anyone in the lower weights. The pressure mounted and the two teams and coaches were on their feet, knowing this match will most likely be the decider of the dual. Erik Ramirez of the Aztec faced Kyle Baldonado (106) of the Golden Bears in a wild battle. The two tied up immediately and Ramirez worked a front headlock into the first score of the night with a take down. Baldonado had a deep take down but was ended by the bell. From the bottom Baldonado showed some slick sit throughs but Ramirez seemed to win every scramble and maintained the top. Baldonado was stacked tight and was nearly pinned. He battled but could never get to his feet to mount his own attack. The match ended, the irrelevant last matches were forfeited and the scoreboard read 37-35, with the Palm Desert Aztecs being the CIF SS champions.

The year is not finished and both teams are poised to make deep runs at the daunting California State Championships.

Beating a top 5 team in the state, twice, is no easy task.

Lenny Dykes can be reached by email at