A young Del Norte Warriors team placed second at the North Coast Section Redwood Empire Division-II Dual Meet Championships over the weekend.
After a stunning comeback to knock off the No. 2 seed, Casa Grande, 42-40, in the semifinals, the Warriors fell 55-21 to Ukiah in the championship round.
But it will go down as an impressive achievement and a valuable learning experience for a Del Norte roster of 15 wrestlers that featured just three seniors, and a squad that should be even better next winter.
It was the third straight section tournament where the Warriors have placed second — all three times to Ukiah — as they continually match up competitively against the biggest high school wrestling programs in the Redwood Empire.
Fortuna also has recently represented the league well at the sections, placing third in both 2018 and 2019.
“The H-DNL does well competing with those bigger schools,” said Del Norte head coach Clinton Schaad. “We were very happy with how we wrestled. You always want more, but sometimes you’ve got to sit back and think about the accomplishment.”
The Warriors opened with a comfortable 58-16 win over Windsor, before mounting an incredible fight back in their semifinal against Casa Grande.
Del Norte trailed 40-18 with four matches remaining and needed to win all four of them by pin to take the match.
And that’s exactly what they did.
Alex Osbourne got the big rally started when he won with a dramatic pin with just 1.2 seconds remaining in his match, before Eric Stansbury, Andre Aflegue and Isaac Lopez all followed with pins to secure the thrilling victory.
“That was probably the most exciting dual meet I have ever been a part of,” said Schaad, who has been coaching for 20 years. “Everybody wrestled really well across the board.”
Lopez also impressed against Windsor, getting the better of a competitor who had recently defeated him at the Ukiah tournament.
“He went out and wrestled great,” Schaad said of Lopez, who won his match against Casa Grande with a first-round pin.
Curtis Bartley also continued to impress with a strong showing in an upset victory over a state-ranked Windsor wrestler.
The Warriors will now turn their attention towards the H-DNL Championships, which they will host on Saturday.
Check out Humboldt Sports later in the week for a league tourney preview.