By ERIC WITTMERSHAUS
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Thanks to a last-second escape, Santa Rosa JC 125-pounder Andres Torres won a gold medal Saturday at the CCCAA state wrestling championships in Lemoore.
Torres, a former Windsor High star who returned to Sonoma County after a year at Northern Iowa Community College, is the fifth state gold medalist in Bear Cubs history. Longtime SRJC coach Jake Fitzpatrick said Torres is the first state champion for the Bear Cubs since Kyle Griffin in 2006.
After struggling early in the season at higher weight classes, Torres said he came in thinking a first-place finish at 125 was within reach. Fitzpatrick said Torres was 14-2 wrestling at 125 this season.
“I definitely came in with a mindset to win,” Torres said. “I needed to focus on wrestling my best, and I knew good things would happen if I stuck to the game plan and wrestled my hardest every second on the mat.”
Torres led the championship match 9-7 with about 25 seconds to go before his opponent, Edwards Estevez out of Palomar, scored a takedown to knot the match at 9-9. Torres then pulled off the escape with fewer than 10 seconds remaining for the 10-9 win.
“I knew I was up by two, and he took me down, so I needed one point (to win),” Torres said. “I just kind of rolled and hit a switch and was able to break free.”
Torres said that, although it’s sometimes hard to keep score during an intense match like Saturday’s final, he was keenly aware he had to pull off an escape to win because of earlier injury timeouts.
The most dramatic pause may have come when Torres sustained a head laceration about midway through the match. The gash had to be glued shut before Torres and Estevez could resume wrestling.
“I’ve never had a laceration like that,” Torres said. “During a match, this is the first time I’ve ever really needed to be superglued.”
Torres was so focused on winning, he didn’t let the gruesome injury faze him.
“My adrenaline was pumping, and I wasn’t going to let anything stop me from achieving my goals,” he said.
To get to the final, Torres beat longtime rival Silverio Esparza of West Hills College, 11-10.
Esparza had gotten the better of Torres in three previous meetings, beating him twice in high school and again at a meet earlier this season.
Torres didn’t allow himself to savor his semifinal triumph.
“It felt good to avenge my losses,” he said. “But really it was just a semifinal match, so I couldn’t think about that match too long.”
Torres was quick to share the glory with JC coaches Fitzpatrick and Kevin Guinn.
“He’s been my coach since my junior year in high school and he’s kind of built me up as a wrestler,” Torres said of Guinn. “He helped me so much and has always been a factor in wrestling for me, even when I went to Iowa last year.”
Torres’ teammate, freshman Blake Borges, finished eighth at 149 pounds. Fitzpatrick said he expects the talented El Molino grad to build on Saturday’s finish next season.