Three South Whidbey wrestlers are bound for the state tournament after placing in the top six of their weight classes at a regional contest held Feb. 12 in Hoquiam.
Sophomore Smokey McClure (27-0) led the Falcons by winning the 138-pound class.
Sophomore Cole Thoreson (20-11) placed fifth at 145 pounds.
Junior Ravi Neumeyer (13-9), at 113 pounds, finished sixth.
One alternate, sophomore Evan Welever (14-8), took seventh place at regionals in the 126-pound class and will compete at state in the event that a higher ranking athlete is not able to, such as in the case of illness or injury.
The upcoming state tournament, known as Mat Classic XXXIII, runs Friday and Saturday, Feb. 18 and 19, at the Tacoma Dome.
For McClure and Thoreson, this will be the first time at a state competition for the underclassmen. Because of the pandemic, the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association canceled the tournament in 2021. Instead, some members of the team competed in a “Super State” event, which was similar in format to an invitational tournament.
McClure won first at Super State as a freshman. He has an undefeated record, both as a freshman and now as a sophomore.
“It’s a small percentage of kids who do that, but I wouldn’t say it’s impossible,” he said.
Believe it or not, there is no single tactic or strategy that he follows out on the mat.
“I like to go out there and kind of just have fun,” he said. “I don’t want to take it super seriously. I don’t want to think of it as a job because I just want to enjoy doing it.”
The son of a two-time high school state wrestling champ from Montana, McClure has wrestled since the age of 4.
“I didn’t really like it a lot at first, but then I eventually fell in love with it and that’s just kind of my passion now,” he said.
He wrestles year-round with a club team on the mainland. Although college is still a few years away, he’s got his eye on wrestling for a Division 1 school.
Thoreson is following in the footsteps of his uncle, who also competed in the state tournament. His uncle didn’t place in the top 6 at the regional tournament and was instead an alternate, but by a stroke of luck, he filled in during the state tournament and placed sixth.
“It really doesn’t matter what you place at regionals or districts, if you’re low,” Thoreson said. “It’s just if you have a good day or bad day.”
His tactic is all about getting into the right, positive mindset 15 minutes before a match.
“That’s what I do,” he said. “Or I chug energy drinks.”
South Whidbey scored 60.5 points at the regional tournament and placed 11th out of 24 teams.
Five other wrestlers on the Falcon team who qualified for regionals did not place.
Freshman Xander Yarnold (3-10), 120 pounds, placed third at the sub-regional tournament; freshman Kaylie Baker (14-9), 140 pounds, placed fourth; sophomore Jamie Dale (5-13), 106 pounds, placed sixth; junior Brody Nelson (3-13), 182 pounds, placed seventh. Senior Wayne Wahl (11-6), 152 pounds, took fourth place but was unable to compete at the regional tournament due to an injury.
Assistant Coach John Sommer said seasoned wrestlers on the team led the way to a great season. Athletes new to the sport improved throughout their competitions.
The wrestlers who are headed to state have put in some “long, hot hours in the mat room.”
“Their physical and mental toughness carried them through a tough regional tournament and will undoubtedly lead to success in the Tacoma Dome,” Sommer said. “Head Coach Robbie Bozin and I are extremely proud of this team.”