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Falcons fourth in tourney as Hern crowned NCC champ

"Doing their best to wrestle a good match and avoid hurting one another, Falcon 171-pounders Chris Martin and Brandon Hern lock up in a semifinal match.Matt Johnson, staff photoA capacity crowd of screaming wrestling fans had heroes to cheer for Saturday night when three South Whidbey wrestlers grappled for North Cascades Conference championship at South Whidbey High School.One of those three, junior Brandon Hern, became the Falcons' first individual conference champion in years, dominating the 171-pound division by pinning three opponents in three matches. Having lost only one match all season, Hern qualified for his finals match by beating teammate Chris Martin in the semifinal round. Martin moved up to the 171-pound division from 165 late in the season. Falcon coach Mike Crebbin said it was nerve-racking to watch the 26-second bout between the two wrestlers because he did not want to see either of them getting hurt.Neither one did. Hern scored a quick pin against Martin, sparing an ankle he had injured in his first-round match.In his final bout, against Mount Baker's Justin Kravetz, Hern stopped a run of Mountaineer wins by putting Kravetz on his back in the second round for a pin. A 2000 state competitor, Hern said he has never heard anything like the cheers he received from the hometown crowd when the referee put his hand in the air as an NCC champion.It was the best feeling, Hern said. That's what you work for all season.The moment capped the best NCC season yet for the Falcons, who improved on their sixth place performance in last year's meet by taking fourth in the team competition. Mount Baker, the 2000 state 2A champion, won the meet with 372 points and took home five individual championships. They're really tough, said coach Crebbin of the Mountaineers.But so were the Falcons. Senior Bruce Hymas and sophomore Andy Wills put their marks on the meet by vying for their own NCC titles. Hymas made it to the 125-pound title bout in workman-like fashion, wrestling steadily through two qualifying matches before losing his last match 6-4 in overtime to Mount Baker's Zender. Wills took a rougher road to his 145-pound championship match. In the semifinals, he wrestled into double overtime against Nooksack Valley's Rich Larson. Good conditioning paid off when Wills held Larson down for the first 30 seconds of the OT period, giving him the takedown and the win.Wills did not fare so well in his final match. Mount Baker's D.J. Rathjen pinned him in the first round. However, Wills said, next week's bi-district meet will be a different story. I know I can beat him, Wills said.Also qualifying for the bi-district meet were Chris Hezel (215), Chris Martin (171), and Luke Smith (130). Hezel won his third-place championship bout against Mount Baker's Perez, pinning him in 2:08.. Smith, who lost a one-point decision in his third-place bout, takes the trip to bi-districts after missing out last year because he was too heavy to wrestle in his weight class. Ben Harris and Chris Long will also go to the bi-district meet as alternates. To qualify for the meet, wrestlers had to place in the top four at the conference meet.Coach Crebbin said he was happy to see his team beat rivals Sultan, Blaine and Granite Falls, but acknowledged that Mount Baker will probably be the top team at the bi-district meet.The bi-district meet will be held Saturday at Mountlake Terrace High School. The meet starts at 10 a.m. "

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