Sports

South Whidbey sends six wrestlers to regionals

Jeff Kunellis looks to his coaches for advice as he reverses out of his opponent’s grip. Kunellis lost his first match, but battled back to claim third place in the 119-pound division. He advances to the regional wrestling tournament at Lynden High School on Saturday, Feb. 12.  - Ben Watanabe / The Record
Jeff Kunellis looks to his coaches for advice as he reverses out of his opponent’s grip. Kunellis lost his first match, but battled back to claim third place in the 119-pound division. He advances to the regional wrestling tournament at Lynden High School on Saturday, Feb. 12.
— image credit: Ben Watanabe / The Record

Head coach Jim Thompson and the South Whidbey wrestling team took another step toward the state tournament.

The South Whidbey Falcons advanced six wrestlers on Feb. 5 to next week’s regional qualifier at Lynden High School on Saturday, Feb. 12.

“We have a chance of getting a couple of guys to state next week,” said Falcon coach Jim Thompson. “They will have to wrestle tough, but we’ve got a shot.”

The goal for the Falcon wrestlers was simple in the week leading up to the Cascade Conference League Championships: “Be loose, have fun but get to regionals.”

At the end of every season, a wrestler’s fate is decided at the league tournament. The top four finishers in each weight division advance. Six Cascade Conference teams participate in the district finals, and each is allowed to enter two wrestlers per weight class. King’s and Coupeville, both 1A schools, do not have wrestling teams.

“It doesn’t really matter what you did during the season,” said Falcon senior Evan Thompson.

“All that matters is how hard you wrestle here, because this is where your season can end at any moment,” he said. “You have to wrestle your best, or the other guy is going to capitalize off of your mistakes.”

South Whidbey rode the 6:30 a.m. ferry for an 8 a.m. weigh-in. Then they had some down time before warm-ups prior to the 10 a.m. start. The tournament did not finish until 7 p.m.

Several Falcons found themselves in the consolation bracket early, having to battle their way back into a placing position. Cameron Schille (135 pounds), Steven Sutton (140), Thompson (145), Van Morgen (152), Patrick Monell (171) and Avery Buechner (189) advanced to the semi-finals.

Schille won his first match with a pin in the first period.

He was on his back, then hooked his opponent’s arm, rolled and pinned. Coach Thompson looked at his team behind him in the bleachers and said, “Did you see that?”

“I was just trying to get my hands really tight and he rolled over,” Schille said. “I just used his momentum to throw him.”

Thompson was the only Falcon in a finals match. His path to the final match went smoothly.

He pinned Mike Knight of Lakewood in his first match. Then South Whidbey’s senior co-captain defeated DJ Bergquist of Cedarcrest — tenth-ranked in the state — 9-4.

In the finals match, Thompson faced top-ranked Cameron Wade of Archbishop Murphy. Wade pinned Thompson late in the first period.

“I took a positive look at the situation,” Thompson said. “I mean, there was a part of me that was a little bit in awe, but all I wanted to do was go out there, be loose and see what would happen.”

Other Falcons in semi-final matches were still in contention to place in the top six, but had not locked in a regional berth. South Whidbey juniors Schille and Buechner both followed up semi-final losses with pins to claim third place.

Jeff Kunellis and Ben Jacobson-Ross placed third after losing in the first round. Both found revenge against opponents who defeated them earlier in the day. Kunellis won by a decision over Riley Hanson of Granite Falls, 8-6. Jacobson-Ross pinned Alex Hueter of Cedarcrest in the second period.

Falcon sophomore Monell lost to David LaPlante of Granite Falls in overtime, 4-3, to achieve a fourth-place finish. Monell will wrestle in the regional tournament next week by way of a pigtail against the fifth-place finisher from the Northwest Conference.

The Falcons also had four wrestlers attain an alternate position in fifth place. Freshmen Andy Madsen (130), Tyler Russell (135), Sutton (140) and Jack Douglas (285) will travel to Lynden in case someone ranked higher is ineligible or unable to wrestle.

“Could we have done better? Yes,” coach Thompson said. “You always think you can do better than what you did.”

“Am I disappointed? No. I am super happy to be taking a couple of ninth-graders as alternates,” he added. “I was very happy to see my son [Evan] reach the finals again. That was his fourth [tournament] final this season so I’m very proud of the way he has been wrestling.”

Regionals will be held at Lynden High School on Feb. 12.

We encourage an open exchange of ideas on this story's topic, but we ask you to follow our guidelines for respecting community standards. Personal attacks, inappropriate language, and off-topic comments may be removed, and comment privileges revoked, per our Terms of Use. Please see our FAQ if you have questions or concerns about using Facebook to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus

Read the latest Green Edition

Browse the print edition page by page, including stories and ads.

Aug 30 edition online now. Browse the archives.