TUMWATER —Nick Knittle spent three minutes after his subregional title-winning wrestling match Saturday sprawled out in the right corner of Tumwater High School’s gymnasium.
He wasn’t upset; the Black Hills High senior had just earned his first subregional title, as well as his first regional berth, defeating Aberdeen’s Erikk Machowek, 7-6, in the 138-pound title match. At first, he was too exhausted to celebrate; the grueling match took everything out of him.
“I’m really out of shape,” Knittle said.
That’s right, he said out of shape, but not because he has been slacking.
Knittle is finding his wrestling rhythm again after missing half the season because of a broken ankle from football. Saturday’s final day of the 2A Evergreen Conference subregional tournament, from which the top four placers in each weight class advance to next weekend’s regional at Steilacoom High School, was the one-month mark since Knittle’s return to action, and Machowek gave him one of his toughest matches to date: a three-rounder that tested Knittle’s stamina.
“I’ve been working a lot on technique since I can’t rely on making it to the third round anymore,” said Knittle, sporting a shiner under his right eye from Machowek.
Highlighted by 12 regional-bound wrestlers – including two subregional champions in Clark Smith (170) and Dylan Smith (220) – Tumwater won the team title with 306 points, edging 2A EvCo regular-season champion W.F. West (278), which got subregional titles from Michael Anderson (126), Eric Braun (152) and Allan McClure (195).
Black Hills, paced by Knittle’s title and two finalists, was third (202), followed by Centralia (189.5), Aberdeen (171), River Ridge (168) and Capital (22).
The T-Birds won the team race with depth. They had at least one top-four finisher in every weight class except 120, 132, 145 and heavyweight.
River Ridge’s Daniel Montesa and Elijah Camacho, two of Class 2A’s top 10 wrestlers at 132 and 160 pounds, respectively, might have a winning formula and it doesn’t have anything to do with technique on the mat.
Each year, the duo sports a new hair style for the postseason. This season, both seniors colored their hair – Montesa dyed his jet-black hair copper-blonde while Camacho resorted to a blonde strip on the right side of his head. Their new looks added a bit of pressure from the coaching staff.
“My coach said since you did that, you better beat everybody,” Montesa said. “You can’t lose looking like that.”
While Camacho pinned W.F. West’s Zach Braun in 3 minutes 50 seconds for the 160-pound title, Montesa’s 132-pound title match with Black Hills’ Gabe Keesee wasn’t as easy. It was scoreless after the first round, and an early escape in the third round led to the 3-2 win, a disappointing result for Montesa.
“The score was too close for comfort for me,” he said.Meg Wochnick: 360-754-5473 email@example.com theolympian.com/southsoundsports @MegWochnick