TUMWATER — A frequent topic heard from fans during Saturday’s 2A Region III wrestling tournament at Tumwater High School was how brutal this year’s event was.
In previous years, teams from the 2A Evergreen Conference such as Black Hills, Centralia, Tumwater and W.F. West, had dominated. But with a new format, the 2A Greater St. Helens League was replaced by the 2A South Puget Sound League, which features one of the state’s small-school wrestling powers: Orting.
The Cardinals are the four-time defending 1A state champions fresh up to 2A this school year. And they won the Region III team title with 151 points, led by eight wrestlers who are bound for next weekend’s Mat Classic XXV.
Centralia, last year’s regional winner, finished runner-up at 144 points; Washington and Tumwater
were tied for third in the 16-team field with 118 points.
The 2A SPSL showed its strength, winning 10 of the 14 regional finals, including six all-SPSL finals in the 120, 126, 138, 145, 170 and 182 weight classes.
Tumwater had three of its six state-bound wrestlers, Cameron Nolan (132), Sam Richards (195) and Jose Jimenez (220), in regional finals and all finished second. Perhaps the top match of the day came from Nolan in his 132-pound final with White River’s Trevor Kurtz, which was a four-overtime affair before Kurtz’s escape seconds into the fourth overtime sealed his 4-3 victory. Nolan, who trailed 3-1, forced the overtime by getting a two-point reversal with just 20 seconds left in the third round.
“That’s the longest match I’ve ever wrestled in my life,” Nolan said. “The most I’ve ever gone is one overtime. … There’s some stuff I can work on. I plan on winning state.”
For senior Jimenez, it was his first state berth. With a record of 27-5, Jimenez has earned some impressive victories this season — including winning the prestigious Sedro-Woolley tournament in December. Saturday’s 220 finale was a rematch from last week’s subregional final with W.F. West’s Gage Rife, who won, 10-4.
“He’s a tough opponent,” Jimenez said. “He’s very skilled and very athletic. In my mind, I kept saying, ‘I can’t let up. I have to keep attacking and attacking.’ ”
Two of the state’s top wrestlers at 113 squared off in the final between Black Hills’ Mason Adams and Orting’s Fred Green, the defending 1A champion at 106 pounds with a 33-1 mark and 23 season pins. Green won by technical fall, 17-0, but Adams (34-4) is already looking ahead to a possible rematch next week.
“He was a lot more technical than I thought,” said Adams, who will join teammate Spencer Gurrad (160) at state. “I look forward to see him in the final (next week).”
Centralia took care of business in the middle weights with regional titles from Kellen Pelzel (152) and Cole Riccardo (160). A total of seven Tigers qualified for state. Heavyweight Alex Daarud also claimed a regional title with a pin over Washington’s Devonn Hatcher (1:16).
One of the surprises continues to be Centralia freshman Bryce Bock at 106, who ultimately fell to Orting freshman Dean Utterback in the final. He entered the regional with a 16-11 mark after last week’s upset of Tumwater’s Jackson Mills, one of the state’s top-ranked 2A wrestlers, for the 106-pound subregional title. On Saturday, he pinned White River’s Dylan Kohler (39 seconds) and Mason Hamilton (3:05) to reach the finals.Meg Wochnick: 360-754-5473 firstname.lastname@example.org theolympian.com/southsoundsports