SEQUIM — They came into this winter as the North Olympic Peninsula’s top state wrestling championship hopefuls.
As the season crossed its midway point at the 13th annual Rainshadow Invitational at Rick Kaps Gymnasium this weekend, not much has changed.
Port Angeles’ Adam Raemer and Port Townsend’s Brett Johnson each claimed individual titles to lead a group of 14 Peninsula top-five placers at the 13-school tournament.
Yet while Raemer had to hold off a pin attempt in the waning moments of his 145-pound championship match, Johnson had his 160-pound opponent spitting blood during a dominant 19-4 victory.
“I thought he spit it out on purpose,” Brett Johnson said after the technical fall, intimating that maybe Thomas Jefferson’s Paul Johnson had enough.
“I went out there and wrestled my hardest. I got ready for my match as best as I could, and went out there dueled like I usually do . . . go out and fight.”
Obviously, Paul Johnson had the look of someone who had just finished a brawl.
Port Townsend’s Johnson, however, appeared more than ready to finish out the third and final round of the match.
That’s despite the fact the senior was competing in just his 10th match of the season because of a left shoulder injury suffered in practice earlier this winter.
The shoulder was taped for all four of his matches during the tournament, two of which ended in pins.
“I’m feeling pretty good,” Brett Johnson said. “I’m at about 95 percent. I feel like I still have a ways to go, and I can only get there with hard work.”
Raemer had to work for every second of his championship round win.
The senior Roughrider took a comfortable 9-2 lead into the final 30 seconds of the third round against Cedarcrest’s Cody Paxman.
Paxman then caught Raemer and turned him over on his back, forcing Raemer to fight off a pin attempt in the waning moments.
“I knew the match was close to being over and I was ahead by enough, I just had to not get pinned to win,” Raemer said.
He was able to do so, despite an all-out effort from Paxman, a 2A state participant last year.
The victory capped a 3-0 performance at the Rainshadow for Raemer that included a pin in the semifinals and a technical fall in the second round. It was his third tournament crown of the season.
“I felt like I did really well in this tournament,” Raemer said. “I was really pleased with my performance up until the last 20 seconds.
“It’s definitely good to face good tough guys like that. At state everyone is tough just like the guy that I just wrestled [in the final].”
Added Port Angeles coach Erik Gonzalez, “It was a good thing he built up a seven-point lead, because he needed every bit of it to hold on.
“That’s the first time he’s really had to fight off his back all season long. Now he’s proven to himself that he can fight off his back.”
Raemer was one of two Riders to reach the finals, 171-pound Brandon Vaught being the other. He lost his title match to Cedarcrest’s Jed Kenney, 6-3.
“He did well,” Gozalez said. “That was actually his very first finals appearance, so that was very good for him as we’re heading towards February.”
Sequim had a pair of finalists as well, although both wrestlers — Zach Sisco at 130 and Dakota Hinton at 152 — weren’t able to come through with an individual title.
Instead, the Wolves had to settle for being the top Peninsula team at the tournament with its fifth-place finish (142 points). Port Angeles ended up taking 10th (89), one spot below Port Townsend in ninth (91.5).
Cedarcrest finished first with 207 points, barely edging out North Mason (198).
“I actually wasn’t expecting [two in the finals],” Sequim coach Len Borchers said. “[Dakota] did great. I think he’s going to be very competitive in the postseason.”
Sisco’s performance was probably the biggest surprise, Borchers said.
The senior had been unable to perform in Thursday’s duel against Port Townsend because of issues with his diabetes.
Yet he came back this weekend with three wins. That included a pin of the top seed at 130 pounds, North Mason’s Brian McCarty, in the second round.
“That was totally unexpected,” Borchers. “He had a great tournament.”
Port Towsend’s Mitchell Harper (130) and Ryan Unbedacht (135) each took third in their respective weight classes. Sequim’s Kenny Henning was third at 134.For complete team standings and the rest of the Peninsula placers at the Rainshadow, see the tournament roundup on Page B3.