NCC vision doesn't exceed wrestlers' grasp

ABOVE: Senior Sean Noste comes up bigger than expected in the third round of wrestling at the weekend
ABOVE: Senior Sean Noste comes up bigger than expected in the third round of wrestling at the weekend's NCC championship, winning this bout and three others to take fourth place in the 160-pound division. BELOW: A champion all year, junior Phil Schorr softens up his third-round opponent before pinning him, then heading on to win the 103-pound championship.
— image credit: Matt Johnson

Before they strapped on their head gear and walked onto the wrestling mats laid out in the Sultan High School gymnasium Saturday, three South Whidbey wrestlers on their way to conference championship bouts had slightly different ideas about how the day would end.

Senior 145 pounder Chris Long hoped he would win. Phil Schorr, the 103-pound Falcon who had won every tournament he'd entered this season but one, thought he could win.

And then there was Ben Harris. He knew he could win.

All three made perfect predictions. Heading a team performance that earned South Whidbey fourth place in North Cascades Conference and sent seven wrestlers on to next Saturday's Region 1 championship, Long was an individual runner-up while Schorr and Harris made champion.

Though sick with an "all over cold" that slowed him a bit Saturday, Harris was the most dominating South Whidbey wrestler in the tournament. He breezed through the preliminary rounds before meeting Mount Baker's Allen Gnuer in the 160-pound championship bout.

In an effort corresponding with his personal prediction for the meet, Harris took his Mountaineer opponent apart, outpointing him 13-6 by keeping Gnuer off balance for three rounds and six minutes.

"He just wasn't very good on his feet," Harris said.

For his championship bout, Schorr had to be even more stable than Harris. Facing off against another of the Mount Baker wrestlers who helped carry the Mountaineers to the NCC team championship, Victor Harkness, Schorr had no room to make mistakes. In the first round of the bout, the two lightweights were even, scoring two points each. In the next round, Schorr scored a two-point reverse to go up 4-2. From there on, the match was a dead heat.

Though the win was not decisive to his mind, Schorr -- who placed fourth at 103 pounds in last year's NCC -- said a championship was what he wanted coming into the meet.

"I'm still happy I won," he said.

The screamer match of the day was Long's. Facing Nooksack Valley's Justin Van Dyke for the third time this year, Long found himself in a battle that had his coach, Wes Helseth, yelling himself hoarse.

Having lost two close matches to Van Dyke earlier in the season, Long wrestled close and tight in a bout that did little to prove which wrestler was the best. Behind 4-2 with time running down in the third period, Long almost sent the contest into overtime with a reverse both he and his coach thought the referee should have counted. It didn't, so Long had to settle for second best.

The Falcons came up with several other strong performances at the meet. After failing to make weight in the 152-pound bracket, ranked senior Sean Noste made a successful jump to 160 by muscling his way to fourth place in the heavier division. He lost a consolation final 8-0 to Andrew Larson of Nooksack Valley, but still advances to the Region 1 meet.

At 112 pounds, sophomore Tyler Rueth was tough to the end. He took third place by winning a consolation final 9-5 over Lakewood's Josh Hoffman. Another third-place finish came to South Whidbey courtesy of Jason Mannie, who took a 9-8 win over Carl Wedekinde of Lakewood in the last seconds of their 135-pound final.

At 130 pounds, junior Conley White placed fourth after losing by fall to Blaine's Richie Tewes in a consolation final. Also performing well enough to at least get on the bus for the region meet was Jason Gilberts. Wrestling on an ankle sprained in practice, Gilberts won his first two bouts Friday in 21 and 31 seconds before running into trouble Saturday. He placed fifth when his final-round opponent forfeited, and will go to Mountlake Terrace as an alternate.

The Falcons' team placing is one shy of last year, when conference champions Brandon Hern and Chris Martin led the team to third.

Placing ahead of the Falcons were Mount Baker, meet runner-up Lakewood, and Sultan.

Coach Helseth the focus for Saturday's meet will be to get as may wrestlers as possible to the state meet.

Wrestling begins Saturday at 9 a.m. at Mountlake Terrace High School.

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