South Whidbey High School will be represented at the wrestling tournament in Tacoma this weekend.
The Falcons reached the Mat Classic with at least one wrestler, sophomore Hunter Newman, who finished in second place in his weight.
Having a 10th grader qualify for the state tournament was a first for head coach Jim Thompson, who has led the program for 12 years.
“To me, even as a junior, it’s a big deal,” Thompson said.
Newman won his first two 1A Region 1 tournament matches to reach the 132-pound division championship at Meridian High School on Feb. 14. First, he bested Port Townsend sophomore Henry Veitenhans with a quick pin in 1:35 — still in the first of three periods. In the semifinals, Newman took down Klahowya senior Devin Steele in a 6-0 win.
Facing top-ranked 1A 132-pound Sultan sophomore Jamell Carroll for the second time in two weeks, Newman fell in 2:51.
“I was very optimistic about his chance to go to state,” Thompson said.
Josh McElhinny, a Falcon senior, will attend the tournament as an alternate in the 138. He lost his first-round bout to Vashon Island sophomore Bryce Hoisington, who pinned McElhinny in 3:54.
The Falcon senior battled back in the consolation bracket, facing an end to his wrestling career with another loss. He beat Klahowya junior Gavin Hamblet with a pin in 4:47. Sultan senior Gavyn Baird fended off McElhinny 6-2 to stay on track for a guaranteed state berth as a top-four finisher.
Fighting to be the next man up in case someone in the top four can’t qualify this coming weekend, McElhinny grappled to a 4-0 win over Nooksack Valley sophomore Michael O’Bryan.
“Anything can happen,” Thompson said. “Last year, three kids didn’t make weight.”
Falcon senior Will Holbert was eliminated after two matches. In the 126-pound division, Holbert fell to the eventual second-place finisher Hunter Burger, a Vashon Island freshman. The bout was close, with Burger getting the pin in the final period at 5:09. Dropped to the consolation bracket, Holbert was narrowly edged 4-3 by Sultan junior Dalton Miller.
South Whidbey had qualified four wrestlers for the 1A Region 1 tournament, but only three competed on Saturday. Madison Evans, a 160-pound junior, was deemed ineligible after a skin irritation was observed by the referees. Despite having a doctor’s note and approval that it was a non-communicable condition, the refs barred him from the competition because the note did not specify the afflicted area.
“We got caught off guard,” Thompson said. “He had a shot.”
Newman and McElhinny will travel with coaches Paul Newman (Hunter’s dad) and Thompson to Tacoma for the three-day tournament on Thursday. Until then, Thompson said they will work on Newman’s footwork and takedowns.
“He’s gotta go out and wrestle, and takedowns are so important,” Thompson said.