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Local wrestlers strut their stuff at Mat Classic
TACOMA A large contingent of area wrestlers made their way to the Tacoma Dome on Feb. 15-16 to compete in the most intense state tournament competition Washington has to offer.
The atmosphere of the dome, where thousands of fans clamored over their hometown heroes, was electric. A low hum of noise hovered over the mats during the two-day event as each match became more important than the last.
Arlington High School sent six wrestlers this year, Darrington sent 10, and Highland Christian two. All of these young men worked long hours to even have the opportunity to wrestle against the best. They made their way to state by placing highly at the district and regional tournaments and earned a well- deserved chance to represent their community.
One thing became evident very quickly at the Mat Classic, easy wins no longer existed. There would be fewer pins, fewer large decisions, and much more nervousness surrounding every twist and fall than a typical dual meet. Points were taken mercilessly and given up begrudgingly as every young man in competition had his eyes on the ultimate honor of a State title.
The 16 different mats featured constant action while the other wrestlers gathered near the edges of the arena to await their turn. The tension engulfed the lower level, talk became nervous chatter or nonexistent. The focus of each individual became evident.
Chris Myers for Arlington won his first match in the 3A, 160-pound division and looked good doing it. He trampled Colby Grant of Sumner 12-4 before taking on Ivan Gaeta of Olympic in round two. Myers suffered through that second match, showing great strength to keep things close, but unable to make a move to score points. He fell to Gaeta 6-0.
Myers entered the losers bracket and knocked out Dylan Rutledge of Auburn 6-0 to keep his tournament alive, but lost in the next match to Taylor Boyce of Everett.
Richard Perkins of Arlington competed in the 215- pound division, losing his first match before defeating John Bellinger of Columbia River in his second performance. Perkins lost his third test to Isaac Gafias of Sheldon.
I got thrown and I couldnt get my footing, said Perkins. I got stuck on the bottom and couldnt get my hips through.
Jordan Anderson went through the brackets the same as Perkins, losing his first match to Caleb Padgett of White River, then beating Edd Allen of Hudsons Bay 20-2. Anderson scored a rare technical fall in his win over Allen, as the vast majority of matches at state were closely contested. Anderson lost his final match to Colton Buechel of Capital.
Brian Dickerson won his first match in the 285-pound heavyweight division for Arlington. The resilient Dickerson battled all year simply to make the varsity squad, usually being passed over in favor of Mark Davis. Davis faltered in the regional tournament and Dickerson wrestled his best of the year to claim a state berth.
The gameplan changes here at state, said Dickerson. You see a lot more close matches. I feel confident in those. If guys tie you up here, you better know what you are doing.
Dickerson went on to lose his next two matches and be eliminated, but to have come so far after battling for a spot on varsity all year is quite an achievement.
Dom Mangini also made it to state for Arlington, culminating a challenging senior year. The resilient Mangini lost both his matches on Friday to end his tournament, but showed a gutsy determination even to have made the tournament at all. After his second match on Friday, the emotional Mangini hugged his coaches upon the completion of his season.
At 135 pounds for Arlington Nathan Shortt defaulted due to injury in his first match, but came back to wrestle strong on into the second day of the tournament.
It was disappointing when he defaulted, said Coach Doug Byers. He was leading at the time.
Shortt, a prodigious freshman, went on to pin Stephen Takashima of Lynnwood and Anthony Hughes of Kelso on his way through the losers bracket. Shortt eventually defaulted again one match before the third-place round.
I used the olympic roll a couple of times to win its my bread and butter move, said Shortt following one of his pins. I dont think about being one of the few freshman here, Im here just like everybody else. Anybody who works hard can make it here.
Shortt will almost certainly be back next year to represent Arlington, but he wasnt even the youngest competitor from the town of Arlington to wrestle at state. That honor belonged to 112-pound Colton Day, an eighth-grader from Highland Christian Prep. Day worked his way onto the Highland varsity and did well enough this season to make the vaunted trip down I-5 to Tacoma for the tournament. According to his coach, he was the first eighth-grader to ever earn this distinction. Despite losing his only two matches, Day will be a fixture at the tournament for years to come.
Day was joined by Highland teammate Stormee Newcombe, who competed in the 145-pound category. Newcombe lost to Marc Jefferson 13-4 and Derek Rice 8-6.
The wow factor of state sometimes bothers guys, said Highland Coach Mark Brown. They get down here under the bright lights and lose in their first trip to state. The kids here are inevitably stronger and faster, its a tough adjustment.
Highland Christians season was doubly successful as their wrestling team captured state academic champion honors as well. For the first-year wrestling program, theyve established themselves on the mat as a force to be reckoned with in the coming years.
The team that sent the largest contingent to state from our area was the Darrington Loggers. Ten wrestlers made the trip and a number of them placed highly in the meet. Conner Rounds led the way by placing second in the 215-pound division. He pinned Beau Spalding of Selkirk in Fridays first match before pinning his teammate Mathias Metzger in round two. Rounds lost a close 5-1 decision in the finals to Rory Beckstrom of Rearden, while Metzger came through the consolation bracket and finished fifth.
We had some tough tests, said Coach Chad Monteith. Only three of our guys won their first round matches.
Due to the random pairings, tourney favorite Johnny Loughnan of Darrington ended up facing last years state champion in the second round. Loughnan, who won three of his four matches by pin to finish third, probably should have been seeded across the bracket from Ryn Rollins of Republic. Unfortunately the two met in the second round and Loughnan lost before he could get to the finals.
Senior Paden Newberry took last years state champion Mat Slaybaugh of Pomeroy into the third round while clinging to a 3-2 lead. However, Slaybaugh reversed Newberry and pinned him with 36 seconds remaining in the final round. Newberry came up through the consolation bracket to finish fifth in another strong showing for Darrington. Cody Bryson also placed fifth for the Loggers, and the junior ought to be back next year.
The boys were not the only ones wrestling in the state tournament this year. Two Lakewood High School girls also made an appearance at the Mat Classic. Christina Ordonez got through the first round on a bye before losing her second-round match. She came back with a big win over Naomi Johnson of La Center, pinning Johnson 17 seconds into the second round. Ordonez lost her third match to Alex White of Hoquiam to end her tournament, but the Lakewood junior showed why she will be a favorite at next years tourney.
Ordonezs teammate Keely Caldwell also fared well in her 130-pound bracket. Caldwell won her first match over Salisa Dixon of Rogers of Puyallup by pin at 3:46. She then lost to Christina Cox of La Center, the eventual state champion. Caldwell won her third match by pin over Evelyn Martinez of Warden, but lost her next match to end her chances.
While no state champions came from Arlington, Darrington or Lakewood this year, a number of promising performances bode well for next season and the seniors that competed showed themselves to be worthy of such heady competition at the Mat Classic.