Toppenish wrestlers setting the standard — and raising the bar

The Toppenish High wrestling team has picked up where it left off last season, dominating at every tournament and dual meet so far this winter.

Not only are the Wildcats 6-0 in CWAC competitions, but they’ve been taking down other top programs around the state at tournaments like the White River Invitational, Gut Check Challenge and Hanford Winter Cup.

Led by senior two-time individual state champions Haiden Drury and Kyler Romero, the Wildcats are the top-ranked team at any classification in Washington — and they’re a heavy favorite to defend their Class 2A championship next month.

“It’s just business with these kids — all business,” head coach Johnny Cerna said. “We know we’re the best, but no one in our room has let that go to their head. They continue to work hard every day and hold each other accountable because we want to consistently be at the top. Not just this year but every year.”

Among the Wildcats’ accomplishments this season are wins tournament wins at White River and Hanford in December, and a second-place finish at the Gut Check Challenge in Kent earlier this month. They’re also undefeated in league, most recently earning wins over Wapato and Quincy on Jan. 21.

Top-Hi also traveled to the prestigious Zinkin Classic in California, competing against 72 of the best teams in the country, including Buchanan High School (No. 3 in the nation) and a 10-time state champion from Allen, Texas.

Drury provided the highlight for the ‘Cats, winning the 132-pound division and being named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Wrestler. Cerna said it’s remarkable for a school the size of Toppenish (900 students) to be able to compete against schools as large as 7,000 students.

“We are competing at a whole other level, and going to the Zinkin Classic — and being successful there — is just one example of how we’re always pushing the bar higher,” the coach said. “We’re trying to set the standard, and we do that by teaching our kids to be great every day, as wrestlers, as students and as citizens.”

That type of winning culture takes time to build, and it doesn’t begin once the wrestlers get to high school. Cerna credited the Bad Boy Wrestling Club — and its head coach, Pepe Segovia — for preparing kids as young as 5 to become part of the high school program someday.

He said the entire Toppenish community has been instrumental to that mission, and that’s what has made the Wildcats so successful in recent years (they also won state in 2017).

“We have great parents who commit a lot of time and money so their kids can have a chance to be the best,” Cerna said. “We have the full support of our community, our administration and our sponsors, and that really shows through in everything we do. It’s just an amazing support system, and these kids are very fortunate to have that.”

Among the younger wrestlers making their mark with the high school program are freshmen Miah Zuniga (ranked No. 1 at 120 pounds) and Josh Luna (No. 8 at 170), and sophomores Joel Godina (No. 1 at 106), Mikey Torres (No. 2 at 106) and Horacio Godinez (No. 1 at 113). Godinez won the 106-pound state championship last season and Godina was the runner-up.

Junior heavyweight Terrell Underwood also has been impressive, earning a No. 3 ranking, and junior Emerique Gonzales, a fifth-place state finisher last year, is ranked No. 3 at 126 pounds. Drury is listed at No. 1 at 132 pounds and Romero is second at 138. Cerna also gave a nod to seniors Isaias Ramirez and Isaac John.

“All of these kids take pride in what they do and there’s a lot of pressure on them to win,” the coach said. “We put a lot of expectations on them, and it’s hard work. But they’re all out here because they want to be the best. As a program, that’s our No. 1 goal.”