Making it through the North Cascades Conference championship meet Saturday was as simple as 1-2-3 for South Whidbey’s wrestlers.
1 — A first-place, three-pin performance by the state’s best 189-pound wrestler, Brandon Hern.
2 — A second-place finish for junior Chris Long.
3 — Third place overall for the Falcons, the team’s best finish ever at the NCC meet.
Buoyed by second-varsity wrestlers who picked up several critical points, the Falcons gave themselves and their coach no surprises, either pleasant or unpleasant, as they outscored Nooksack Valley by 2.5 points to ease behind Mount Baker and Lakewood to become one of the NCC’s big three for 2002.
“We did as good as I expected,” said Falcon Coach Mike Crebbin.
Along the way, the team qualified seven wrestlers for the Region 1 championship meet and four others as alternates.
Starting things off for the team was featherweight Phil Schorr. Finally tipping the scales at over three digits, the 103-pound sophomore placed fourth with a couple of wins during the two-day NCC meet. Tyler Reuth, who wrestled much of the year at the junior varsity level, was one place behind to qualify as an alternate for the region meet.
The Falcons got their first invitation to a championship match when junior Chris Long pinned his way through three qualifying rounds at 145 pounds to make the final. Against Nooksack Valley’s B.J. Vavra, Long got ahead early with a takedown, but fell behind in the second and third rounds of his bout. The 9-6 loss forced him to settle for the runner-up placing — his best finish ever at the NCC meet. Long said keeping the intimidation factor out of his mind was the key.
“I was more prepared,” he said.
Adding to the excitement in the next weight class was Ben Harris. Out for more than a week prior to the meet with an injured shoulder, the sophomore grappled his way into a 152-pound final with a Lakewood wrestler he’d barely beaten earlier in the year. Though he was short on practice hours, Harris produced the same result this time around with a white-knuckled, 2-1 consolation championship win to take third place.
Matching Harris’ placing was senior Chris Martin. Also an injury case, Martin fought back fatigue to make consolation champion at 215 pounds. Still ranked as the state’s third best at that weight, Martin lost only one match to Mount Baker’s Brady Jonas, the state’s No. 2 wrestler.
Martin’s coach said the only thing preventing Martin from being the best at this point is conditioning. Anyone could see that on Saturday.
“He was a whole lot of tired,” Crebbin said.
Chris Hahn, a senior out for his first year of wrestling, bolstered South Whidbey’s profile in the 215-pound division. Though he weighed only 177 pounds on meet day, Hahn intimidated his way into fifth place and a regional alternate spot against wrestlers 40 pounds heavier. Hahn said he used his strength to surprise his opponents early.
“I’m a lot quicker than most big guys would be,” he said.
Providing the meet’s denouement was senior Brandon Hern. It took him just over two minutes total in three bouts to pin all his opponents to win the championship and take NCC Wrestler of the Year honors.
Also qualifying for the region meet for the Falcons were Conley White at 119 pounds and Andy Wills at 160 pounds. Alternates were Eric Flister at 125 pounds and Sean Noste at 160 pounds. Junior Zach Bartell also scored points for the Falcons, taking sixth in the 171-pound division even as he suffered from a bloody nose in the later rounds.
The Falcons wrestle next on Saturday in a Region 1 meet at Mountlake Terrace.