Ava Seccuro co-editor-in-chief
In almost every match, the Normans and their opponents seemed to be neck-and-neck with each other. With two “stand-out” matches for senior Ilai Dardashti and junior Reef Travish, the sidelines emitted screams and shouts that filled the entire room with a palpable chaotic energy.
The senior-stocked team brought the intensity from the first match-up. The team had to be keyed in during this “grueling week,” head coach Ryan Faintich said. After they “shined,” he said, against the Redondo Union Sea Hawks, the team although not having their “best night” got the job done.
The team faced more obstacles along with having to wrestle another duel two days prior to their duel against Mira Costa; injuries, rivalries and former CIF Masters Meet placer Taro Iyadomi all posed challenges, but Normans still swept the match, which is why Fainitch holds this year’s team, in an especially high regard.
“No disrespect to any team prior but in the eight years that I’ve been here this is certainly the best team we’ve had and I think it’s a team that should be mentioned with some of the teams all the way back to the ‘60s,” he said.
The stakes were high and the Normans took those stakes and used them for motivation in this duel. Even if some aspects of the duel didn’t sway in the Normans favor, Faintich said with a rematch in the next few weeks, they’ll get redemption.
“We had a lot of guys that stepped up today. One of them was senior Ilai Dardashti. He was cutting a lot of weight and even though he weighed 147 pounds, the coaches bumped him up and he won a big one for the team and I think that was a big difference maker in this match,” Faintich said. “[With senior Daniel Winn’s match, Taro] surprised us from neutral, built a lead and stayed in the match. We’ll get a rematch in a couple weeks. The other one was Reef Travish who avenged an earlier loss last year at league finals in the championships to James Hennessey, so he came back and got some redemption.”
Out of the many notable matchups and circumstances in this duel, Dardashti’s was by far the one that racked up points for the Normans and secured the win.
After it was “sprung” on Dardashti a day prior to the match the option to cut weight so that the Normans could position themselvesin a place where they could wrestle one more opponent and earn more points to increase their odds of winning, Dardashti complied, stating that it was a “sacrifice” he was willing to make for the team.
“One of the reasons that it was a pivotal match was because we were up and we were getting some pins, but [we] also lost some. So, that match would decide,” he said. “Because of the way it was positioned, [how] I weighed lower but then got bumped up, between who I was wrestling against and who was up next, it was important for me to win that because we knew that the next match was going to be a hard match.”
Moving forward with the season, the Mustangs are the least of the team’s worries. The Santa Monica Vikings now appear to be a more “formidable opponent,” Faintich said; however, he still thinks that the team “has a shot” to produce quite a few champions out of a total of 14 weight classes at Bay League Finals.
But for now, the Normans are still savoring their win and the fact that they’re one step closer toward being back-to-back Bay League champions.
“I feel like this is a really good start to the season. Last week, we had an amazing blow out against a team that was no pushover, so this is a step up for us,” Travish said. “We managed to pull through and it was a nice win.”
The Normans’ next match is against the Santa Monica Vikings on Wednesday, Jan. 22 at 3 p.m.