STATE WRESTLING PREVIEW: North Olympic Peninsula sending 32 wrestlers to Mat Classic XXIX

STATE WRESTLING PREVIEW: North Olympic Peninsula sending 32 wrestlers to Mat Classic XXIX

TACOMA — Every conceiveable human emotional condition will be on display at Mat Classic XXIX, the boys and girls state wrestling championship, today and Saturday at the Tacoma Dome.

Palpable levels of anxiety or confidence as on-deck wrestlers pace, bounce their heads around and visualize their upcoming matches.

Raucous cheers rising up from every corner and bouncing off all surfaces of the venerable dome as family, friends and fans express their support.

Furious anger when coaches feel referees are missing out on or making calls that harm their wrestlers’ chances at a podium place and a state medal.

And an overwhelming mix of pride, triumph, sadness and resignation when a victorious state champion leaves their shoes on the rubber wrestling surface, signaling they have “left it all on the mat” and are marking their retirement from the sport.

The size and scope of the event, which brings together wrestlers from across every state classification is enough to shake even veteran grapplers.

“It’s a bit overwhelming,” veteran Forks coach Bob Wheeler said.

Wheeler has attended all 29 Mat Classics, and many more state tournaments when the events were held at high schools around the state.

“I’ve seen freshman and sophomores making their first appearance that walk in and their jaw just drops,” Wheeler said.

“So what we do is just tell them all to walk in, look around, and remember that this breaks down to a four-mat [per classification], 16-man tournament. We remind them that they have competed in tournaments like the Hammerhead and the Gut Check Invite that are four-mat, 16-man brackets, and certainly tournaments like the Gut Check are even more difficult competition-wise.”

Port Angeles coach Brent Wasche is in his second year with the Roughriders. He’s taking seven wrestlers to state this year after sending three competitors and coming home with two state placers last February. Wasche, used to doing things big after teaching and coaching in Texas, was impressed by the feel of Mat Classic.

“The Mat Classic is probably one of the biggest events in the country,” he said.

“It’s a unique format to have everybody here to crown champions and celebrate wrestling and it’s awesome for all involved.”

Forks taking bakers dozen

Forks has 12 boys wrestlers, one male alternate and girls wrestler Marissa Bailey competing at state.

“The one thing that sticks out the most, for the future, we have 12 kids wrestling and four are seniors,” Wheeler said.

One senior, 195-pound Jack Dahlgren is looking to shed controversy that came with his third-place finish as a sophomore and runner-up finish last season at 182 pounds.

Dahlgren lost a state semifinal on a disputed takedown in 2015 and fell 5-4 in triple overtime in the state championship round last season when referees declined to call his opponent for what appeared to be numerous stall violations.

One youthful Spartan, sophomore Josue Lucas (106 pounds) finished eighth last season as a freshman, and is ranked No. 1 in his class by the Washington Wrestling Report after winning subregional and regional titles.

“We have a lot of youth, so it looks good for the future,” Wheeler said.

“And we have some kids that really seem to be peeking at the right time.”

Wheeler mentioned 160-pounder Bretty Moody as one who is making strides late in the season, along with junior Luke Dahlgren (220 pounds) and heavyweight Nathan Flores.

“Brett Moody, we weren’t sure how we was going to do with Montesano’s No. 1 kid, but their no. 2 was ranked high and Brett lost to him in dual matches but beat him at subs[sub-regionals] and the question became can he do it again? And this time he was absolutely in control and he pinned him.”

“Colby Demorest (145) has stepped up and wrestled extremely well for us in the postseason.

“If we can get a second person to place in the same weight class it would be really good for us.”

Garrison Schumack also will wrestle at 145 pounds for the Spartans. He knocked off Demorest in the regional finals last week.

“It helped us win the regionals to get all those second-place guys,” Wheeler said.

“We are looking for some good things from our heavyweight Nathan Flores. He’s a little heavyweight, not as big as some of the other guys. “A lot of those heavyweights might do well at the beginning but he wears on them.”

Other Forks state wrestlers are: Kenny Gale (170), Eden Cisneros (195), Shane Queen (160) Tristen Pisani (220) and alternate Keith Thompson.

Wheeler said the Spartans are looking to crack the top four and return home with a team trophy.

“We have been in the top 10 the last several years. We were 10th last year and we want to do better.

“It will be tough for anybody to catch Granger, but two through four are pretty well open.”

Come home content

Wasche said Port Angeles’ goal at state is to be productive.

“I don’t want anybody going that’s just happy to be there,” he said.

“I want us to bring home medals and become state placers. I don’t want them to be content with making state.”

Roughriders qualifying for state include — seniors Cody Anderson (120 pounds), Ben Basden (138), Caleb Joslin (152), Thomas Blevins (170) heavyweight Hayden Wickham and juniors Bailey White (220) and Bryce Lauderback (195).

Basden placed fifth in 2016 and was seventh in 2015.

“This is my eighth year as a wrestling coach and he’s the most electric kid I’ve ever seen,” Wasche said of Basden.

“It’s the way he wrestles on his feet. He is a major athlete.”

Anderson competed at state last year and has faced plenty of tough competition this season.

“He’ll have a good first-round matchup against Clarkston’s Klayton Babino, but if he can get through he has a good shot at a high finish,” Wasche said.

Wasche said Joslin and Blevins wrestle with heart and are both capable of beating anybody in their brackets.

Wickham resumed wrestling this season after participating as a freshman.

“It took a little while to get the feel back but he’s done well for us,” Wasche said.

Lauderback improved his game after going 0-2 at regionals and missing state last season.

“He has just been knocking it out of the park this year,” Wasche said.

“League champ and runner-up at regionals. He has the ability to flip a switch at any time and you better watch out because he can get after it. He’s become a lot more versatile out of the neutral position.

“He has a pretty wicked slide-by, a good head and arm and he can take a shot.”

Sequim will send four boys wrestlers, one male alternate and two girls wrestlers to Tacoma.

Adrian Klarich won the 182-pound regional crown last week and will look to improve on his 0-2 record at state last year.

The Wolves also have Grant Pierson (160 pounds), Austin Budd (170), Dylan Perreira (195) and alternate Mason Larsen (285).

Kiara Pierson (120) and Alma Mendoza (155) are each seeking their third medal in as many seasons.

Pierson was fourth at 110 pounds last season after a seventh-place finish as a freshman.

Mendoza has two seventh-place medals.

Port Townsend head coach Steve Grimm will bring a contingent of five wrestlers and one alternate. Since Port Townsend wrestles as a team with rival Chimacum, two of them will represent the Cowboys.

That includes Cody McClain, a Port Townsend transfer who finished seventh at 220 last season.

Chimacum teammate Ryan Caldwell will wrestle at 182 pounds.

The Redhawks’ Jacob Massie (heavyweight), will be joined by fellow big man Tucker Booth, Henry Veitenhans (145) and alternate Jesus Duran (132).

Wrestling begins at 10 a.m. today and Saturday.

________

Sports reporter Michael Carman can be contacted at 360-417-3525 or [email protected]

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