WRESTLING: Area wrestlers eye state titles at Mat Classic XXVI
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Lonnie Archibald/for Peninsula Daily News
Forks junior Miguel Morales wrestles at last year’s Mat Classic. Morales was the state runner-up in the 285-pound division as a sophomore in 2013.

By Michael Carman
Peninsula Daily News

TACOMA — Forks wrestling coach Bob Wheeler has spent this week mentally preparing his North Olympic Peninsula-leading 14 state qualifiers to “win two matches on Friday” at Mat Classic XXVI at the Tacoma Dome.

Win two on Friday and a placement in the top eight at state is assured.

Wheeler has enough wrestlers and enough potentially high-performing grapplers competing that a state team title is within reach.

“We haven't been the most consistent, so I'm not sure what group will show up,” Wheeler said.

“The thing I think about every year is if they are good enough to be at state they are good enough to place, so we can't overlook anyone [we wrestle against].

“It doesn't matter if you face a freshman; if they've gotten there, they can beat you.”

Best bets for individual titles for Forks come big and small in the form of 106-pounder Sebastian Morales, a junior who was seventh at state last year, and Miguel Morales at 285, who in his first season of wrestling last year ended up in a state final, falling 15-5 to Cody Zyph of Kiona-Benton.

Sebastian Morales wrestled at 113 during the regular season in order to “wrestle tough guys and prepare for state,” according to Wheeler.

“We certainly feel they should compete for titles,” Wheeler said of the pair.

“Miguel is just a natural talent and I don't think there's anything stopping him from getting to the finals.”

Joel Ward (220) was third at 220 at last year's Mat Classic and “has a real good shot to do as well again” this year, Wheeler said.

Ward may end up facing teammate Luke Loveless in the semifinals.

Loveless wrestled at state at 285 last year, but a desire to enter military service has seen him cut 60 pounds off his frame.

“Obviously, Luke is a hard worker and he has a good shot at going far,” Wheeler said.

Returning state placer Ricky Barragan (138) finished eighth last year and, “we are counting on him to do well and would be disappointed if he didn't place,” Wheeler said.

Forks has two wrestlers at 113, sophomores Alvaro Ortiz, who placed second at regionals, and Alan Enstastegui.

The Spartans also will be represented by freshman Garrison Schumack (120); senior Nanito Sanchez (132); senior Abisai Garcia (138); junior Javier Contreras (145); senior Gavin Castaneda (182); and Jake Claussen (285).

Forks girls wrestler Brooke Peterson will wrestle at her third straight state meet. The junior is looking for her first medal, and Wheeler is expecting her to come back with hardware.

Port Angeles taking six

Roughriders coach Erik Gonzalez puts no credence in the wrestling rankings, despite the presence of many of his high-performing grapplers.

He doesn't dwell too much on the state bracket draw for his athletes, preferring to keep the focus on the next match.

“When you start looking ahead or looking at numbers, that's when you get burned,” Gonzalez said.

“It sounds cliche but it's really not about [opponents], it's about us and having our guys wrestle our style and dictating the pace.”

Four of the six Port Angeles wrestlers that made state this season placed at last year's Mat Classic, and Gonzalez believes all six are capable of taking home high finishes this weekend.

Ozzy Swagerty leads the Port Angeles hopefuls at 126 pounds with a style that can be boiled down to one word: decisive.

“Everything he does, he does hard and fast. Everything is decisive,” Gonzalez said.

“He hits it hard and fast and he can wear you down physically and mentally.”

Swagerty finished fourth at state last year at 126 advancing through the consolation bracket after quarterfinal loss.

“He's a [title] contender for sure,” Gonzalez said of Swagerty. “We feel he can be a finalist this time and he expects to go.

“One of the best things about Ozzy is his focus: nothing phases him and he doesn't care about who he wrestles or who is in his bracket.”

Sophomore Tyler Gale and junior Kyle La Fritz each placed fifth at state last year in the 106- and 220-pound weight classes, respectively.

Junior Roberto Coronel (285 pounds) finished seventh in the 220-pound class last year and is leaner and in better shape than many of the bigger wrestlers he faces.

“He's confusing to most of those guys, but he's big and powerful and strong enough to match what they do well,” Gonzalez said.

“He's more like a college heavyweight, style-wise.”

Junior Matt Robbins (182) competed at state last year, and earlier this month took his regional championship competitor to the limits, with Kingston's Aaron Dickson resorting to stalling to hold onto the win.

“Confidence-wise, Matt is on a roll and is a dangerous kind of wrestler, Gonzalez said.

“I think he was a little awestruck last year at state and that won't be the same this year.”

Junior Brady Anderson (120) is a two-time participant who has gone 0 for 2 in heartbreaking fashion both years.

“He's ready to take the next step this year and we like his chances at getting to the semis and winning there,” Gonzalez said.

Redskins sending trio

Port Townsend's best shot at medal comes from senior Matt Cain who won the 152-pound regional championship last weekend.

He will be joined by Shae Shoop at 113 and Trevor Garrett at 182.

All three wrestlers are making their state debut.

Two Wolves wrestling

Kaylee Ditlefsen at 130 and Sophia Cornell at 106 will represent Sequim in the girls tournament.

Ticket prices for the Mat Classic are $15 adults $11 for seniors/students for the day, or $23 or $17 for both days.

The first sessions starts today at 10 a.m, with the second session running from 4 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.

Saturday's action begins with the third session at 10 a.m.. The finals begin at 5 p.m.

Last modified: February 20. 2014 6:36PM
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