TACOMA – Mt. Spokane did it again, winning the State 3A team wrestling championship for the third season in a row.
But this one was a little more challenging. Not every wrestler the Wildcats assumed would score points even made it through last weekend’s Region 4 meet. Friday afternoon’s early-round performances left a lot to be desired.
There was even talk that Edmonds-Woodway and Yelm, who eventually finished second and third, respectively, might have a shot at the title.
“I was worried,” longtime Wildcats coach Travis Hughes said. “We didn’t wrestle well at all Friday morning. We hadn’t wrestled well at regionals.”
When all was said and done, though, Mt. Spokane, fueled by individual champions Ky Haney at 145 and Casey Howerton at 152 as well as some more subtle contributors, wound up atop the standings again, with 141 points, 38 ahead of Edmonds-Woodway and 43 above Yelm.
“The kids came ready this morning. It feels great,” Hughes said. “Fifteen years ago, I never would have thought this would happen. Better kids, better athletes have started coming to our school.”
Haney, ranked first at 145, had to take the hardest route to his title, defeating second-ranked Denny Roa of Evergreen (Vancouver) 10-3. He reached the finals by pinning Edmonds-Woodway’s Howie Hare in the semis.
Howerton, wrestling right after Haney, entered ranked third and needed to upset top-ranked Trevor Zeitner of Gig Harbor to claim the crown, via a 9-5 decision. He advanced by downing Shorewood’s Devin Leach, 12-4.
Junior 113-pounder Jarret Sharp finished runner-up while Carter Miethe placed third at 182. But Hughes found heroes who spent much of the weekend wrestling away from the winners’ brackets bright lights.
“Hudson Buth, a freshman (132) lost his first match and battled all the way back to get fourth,” he said.
North Central sophomore Kenndyl Mobley kept hopes for future three- or four-time status alive with a second-round pin of Yelm’s sixth-ranked junior Gage Nelson in the title match at 126. Mobley was also a state champion as a freshman a year ago.
Teammate Steven Zaragoza is a junior who finished third a year ago and badly wanted a championship.
Ranked first coming into the tournament, Zaragoza earned an 11-2 major decision over Ethan Nguyen of Edmonds-Woodway to secure the 106-pound title and send him on an emotional celebratory dash around the mat.
“It’s all about heart. I showed I have the heart,” Zaragoza said, fighting off emotions.
Two Shadle Park wrestlers were also winners in 3A as the Highlanders finished sixth as a team with 75 points.
Shadle Park’s top-ranked Zach Lopez, defeated second-ranked Guillermo Ramirez of Kamiakin 5-1 at 120. Lopez edged Austin Davis of Marysville-Pilchuck 8-7 in the semifinals.
Later, the Highlanders’ 170-pounder, Juan Escobar blew out Riley Van Scoy of Stanwood 15-7 after earning his spot in the finals with a 10-2 win over Shale Webb of Kelso.
In 4A, a season-long rivalry at 126 with Mead’s Chase Randall ended in Gonzaga Prep freshman Q’Veli Quintanilla’s favor as the brother of a three-timer and a four-timer took the first step toward perhaps one day matching the achievements of his siblings.
The top-ranked Quintanilla scored his fourth victory in six matches with the second-ranked Randall, 10-8, and fell into a long hug with Bullpups coach Danny Pearson.
“It’s a blessing. Getting up at 5 to workout, being the last one out of the practice room,” Quintanilla said. “I told coach I love him. I really couldn’t have done it without the people who were with me. Coaches and family, I thank them and God for everything.”
With freestyle nationals ahead and the challenge of equaling his brothers Clai (a four-time winner for North Central in four weight classes from 2014-17) and Izaec (who won one 152 title for the Indians and two at 160 from 2013-15 and is now a member of G-Prep’s coaching staff), Quintanilla is already looking ahead.
“This is just a beginning. The job’s not finished,” he said.
Pearson sees Quintanilla’s progress as exceptional.
“He’s a freshman in age, a freshman in school, but he’s not a freshman on the wrestling mat,” Pearson said. “He’s got a remarkable poise and a remarkable maturity. He makes adjustments well, handles himself really well.
“The sky’s the limit for him. He comes from a family of a three-timer and a four-timer and now he’s got a chance to do that as well.”
Central Valley’s 285-pounder Braxton Mikesell became a multiple state winner, claiming his second title in as many years, also with a win over a Mead wrestler, beating Trace Franks 10-3 for the title. He had beaten Hunter Hill of Graham-Kapowsin 9-4 in the semifinals.