Coaches consider the eastern Washington 2A wrestling regional more an extension of state than simply the state qualifier. After they got done carving each other up Saturday afternoon at West Valley it was hard to argue.
Saturday at West Valley, state veterans and placers were left home. Wrestlers turned tables on their nemeses. Attrition jeopardized team state title aspirations as CWAC and Great Northern League schools divided evenly the 56 state berths, each with 14 finalists and seven champions.
“I think it’s the toughest region in state,” said Deer Park four-time state qualifier Joe Grable. “Almost everyone out of here places at state.”
“It’s a meat grinder,” said Randy Cloke, coach of team champion Colville which had two champs among seven state qualifiers. “Kids get left home who work hard. It’s bittersweet.”
Consider West Valley 220-pound junior Jace Malek a two-time state finalist. Three of his four losses this year had been to precocious Clarkston sophomore Dylan Beeler, whose dad Wade had been a Bantams standout.
He trailed again, 2-1 entering the third round of their title match, then recorded a stunning pin in the final 35 seconds.
Rather than mix it up on the mat, Malek said a devised strategy was designed to tire his foe out in the first two rounds and then dominate in the third.
“I had a good tank of gas going into the third round, so I just capitalized,” Malek explained. “He went to a sit-out and I was able to get a leg ride in. I was able to twist him back and forth until I could get him on his back.”
Malek’s win came in the second set of finals bouts contested side-by-side on two mats. The night’s final pair fittingly came with Deer Park standouts Grable and Mat Miller wrestling side-by-side in their final regional.
Between them the four-year teammates and practice partners, wrestling at 145 and 152 pounds respectively, have accounted for nearly 150 wins and seven state trips. Grable, qualifying for a shot at a second state championship, won a workman-like 5-1 decision over East Valley rival Trey Meyer.
Miller needed an escape with 53 seconds left for his one-point win over an opponent he beat by 12 the last time they met.
Grable, with a school record 143 wins, has finished third, second and first in three previous state meets. Miller is making his third appearance.
Deer Park had a match-high four champions out of five finalists, sophomore Trevor Eicher at 182 in a waltz and junior Jason Aebischer by a point at 170.
Colville, which scored 173.5 points to nudge defending state champion Othello by two points, got titles from Rylie Smith at 160 and Ian Cox at 138.
Two families of Central Valley wrestlers accounted for four of five of the Bears regional champions.
Defending state champions Blake Beard (138 pounds) and Colton Orrino (145) were joined by brothers Bryson Beard (120) and Braeden Orrino (132) atop the regional podium. Dave Shepard won at 160 for the Bears who send a total of seven to Mat Classic.
Lewis and Clark’s Dakota Numbers (170) and Noah Buckley (285) and Mead’s Mason Ju (220) were the other GSL titlists.
The Panthers finished second as a team with 167 points behind Moses Lake’s 229.5, which had 10 state qualifiers. The Panthers advance six.
North Central qualified six to state including Bryan Wais who won at 138 after finishing fifth in subregional the week before. Junior Villaro, sixth last weekend, placed third and also advances to Tacoma.
The Indians finished third with 130.5 points behind University’s 197 and Mt. Spokane’s 163.5.
Indians Izaek Quintanilla (160) and Cai Quintanilla (106) and Cody Kiourkas (152) were regional champs.
The Wildcats qualified nine to state, five of them finalists, with individual titles by Jason Beck (132), Christian Nibarger (145) and Tom Harvey (220). The Titans champions were Austin Stannard (170) and Tate Orndorff (285). Shadle’s Kyle Vinson won at 182.