The road to the Mat Classic is a little clearer after this weekend for South Whidbey wrestling.
The Falcons advanced eight wrestlers out of the Class 1A District 1 championships Saturday at Sultan High School to the Region II championships Feb. 10, also at Sultan.
The top four placers at regionals move on to next week’s state tournament Feb. 16-17 in the Tacoma Dome.
Freshman Drew Aposhyan was the Falcons’ lone champion at 113 pounds. Taking second at 182 was first-year wrestler Clay O’Brien, a junior. Other placers included freshman Soren Bratrude (3rd, 113), freshman Caleb McArthur (3rd, 132), freshman Magnus Nyberg (4th, 160), junior Alex Turner (3rd, 170), sophomore Kobe Balora (3rd, 195) and sophomore Dylan Davis (3rd, 220).
Placing outside the top four and falling short of outright regional berths were senior Micah Tarantino (5th, 138), sophomore Dayton Birchfield (5th, 152) freshman Kaidyn Brinks (6th, 132), junior Noah Ratcliff (6th, 145) and freshman Cameron Martin (6th, 152).
First year head coach Robbie Bozin considered the day a success; more than half of the regional qualifiers are underclassmen.
“I’m very, very happy,” Bozin said. “They all wrestled hard.
They all wrestled tough. It’s cool to see how they’ve evolved from the beginning of the year to the end. Things that we’ve been working on are starting to show. Still a young team and still a lot to work on, but I’m a very happy coach.”
Perhaps no other Falcon wrestler epitomizes Bozin’s outlook on the team than Aposhyan.
The freshman, who started wrestling in seventh grade and whose father was a state champion, began the season with a grasp on the basic fundamentals but little experience in applying them in varsity competition. He didn’t place in a couple tournaments in the first half of the year, but turned around things in the final stretch with several top three finishes.
He’s now an aggressive grappler who likes to stay on his feet and has a knack for takedowns. Aposhyan beat Mount Baker’s Eli Freeman 9-7 in overtime to win the conference title.
“It was awesome,” Aposhyan said. “I’m definitely very proud of how far I’ve come this season. It was a tough last match, but I won and that’s what counts.”
He’s not letting the accomplishment go to his head though. He said it’s widely accepted that in wrestling nothing is ever given -– it must be earned.
The four berths up for grabs at this Saturday’s regional championships will be no different.
“That match, my finals match, was a lot closer than I wanted it to be,” Aposhyan said. “It just made me realize that nothing is given to me. I don’t care if I’m the number one seed, the number two seed – I just got to fight the whole way through. If I make it to state, that’s awesome.”
McArthur sees the sport and this Saturday’s regional in the same light. McArthur lost his first round match to Sultan’s Hunter Jones 14-4. He bounced back with a pin in the consolations, then beat Jones 6-3 in a rematch to take third.
“My first loss to him I never followed through on my shots, which kind of screwed me over,” McArthur said. “…I was just more aggressive (in the rematch). I just had the mentality of, ‘I’m going to beat you and I’m going to take your place.’”
More aggression on the mat has probably been one of the Falcons’ biggest strengths at the tail end of the season, Bozin said.
He’s confident it will help carry them through regionals, which he hopes will result in at least a few wrestlers qualifying for state.