Battling through hurt shoulders, illness and even a chipped tooth, South Whidbey’s wrestlers found a way to win just enough.
Four Falcons, three as alternates, qualified for the Mat Classic XXV with top-six finishes at the 1A regional tournament Saturday, Feb. 9. The chipped tooth belonged to junior Jose Chavez, and illness hindered many South Whidbey wrestlers. Who will travel alongside coaches Jim Thompson, Paul Newman and fourth-seeded Pat Monell, a senior in the 220-pound class, remained unknown as of press time.
“I’m really proud of them,” Thompson said. “I’ve not had a problem with this team with what they give me on the mat.”
Thompson added: “It was a tough regional. But they wrestled hard.”
Monell claimed South Whidbey’s top finish at fourth place. Getting there was an ordeal as Monell wrestled in four bouts, including a 3-1 loss in the second round that dropped him to the consolation bracket, one loss from elimination.
“I thought he should have made the final, he didn’t for whatever reason,” said Thompson of Monell’s quarter-final loss. “His strength was sapped a little.”
Monell recovered against Mount Baker senior Matt Scholes with a pin in the second period. Defeating Scholes guaranteed Monell a spot at state and put him in the third-place/fourth-place match against Mount Baker senior Sterling Honey. Monell was pinned in the second period, sealing his fate as the fourth-seed from the region.
“It was a relief to know I was automatically going,” Monell said.
As the Falcons’ only guaranteed wrestler at the state tournament, Monell had a light week of practice ahead of him. Thompson said he would throw heavyweight Pierce Jackson, Beck Davis (182) and Calvin Shimada (170) at Monell to prepare.
Smiling with half a front-tooth, Jose Chavez slogged his way to sixth place in the 170. The Falcon junior recovered from an early pin by Elma senior Layne Sutten with a narrow victory in the second round. Chavez outdueled Mount Baker junior Alex Ray, 6-5, before falling to Mount Baker junior Travis Lindsey, 5-0. The second loss dropped Chavez to the final elimination match, which he lost to Friday Harbor junior Sam Ibold. Being pinned in 1:31 put Chavez at sixth place, the second alternate for 170.
“For a kid to step up, wrestle a little over his weight and still finish sixth is pretty neat,” Thompson said.
Kyrell Broyles placed sixth in the 145. In his first match, Broyles failed to score a point against Montesano freshman Kylar Prante, 9-0. Dropped to the consolation bracket, Broyles pinned Rochester sophomore Juan Jimenez in a hurry - 48 seconds - before losing to Elma junior Austin Cristelli, 8-0. That match bumped Cristelli to the third/fourth-place match and cut Broyles to the alternate’s bout. Broyles lost his final match to Mount Baker senior Zach Larson, who pinned in 1:10.
The day started early for Broyles, who only slept two hours before a full day of grappling.
“I could not get to sleep,” he said. “I didn’t know that if I worked out beforehand, that the endorphins would keep my body and muscles awake. I seriously thought by working out I was going to tire myself and go to sleep easier.”
Steve Smith, a sophomore, surprised his coaches with a sixth-place finish in the 113. He shocked lots of people, as Smith did not win a single match.
“Stevie was a real pleasant surprise,” Thompson said.
The first match ended when Forks freshman Alvaro Ortiz pinned Smith in the third period. Once in the consolation bracket, Smith had a second-round bye and was pinned in his third match by Blaine sophomore Billy Dodd. In the alternates’ match, Forks freshman Alan Ensastegui beat Smith, 6-4.
The Mat Classic begins Thursday, Feb. 14 with registration. Wrestling commences Friday, Feb. 15 at the Tacoma Dome, with the first session scheduled for 10 a.m. Monell is set to face Chelan junior Asa Schwartz at 1:20 p.m.