You only get one chance to go out in style.
That’s exactly what River Ridge High School’s Elijah Camacho was thinking when he contacted his good friend — reigning Class 3A state wrestling champion Jake Grantham of North Thurston.
“I hit him up and said, ‘Brother, it’s senior year. For regionals and state, give me a sick pair of shoes to wear.’ ”
And what did Grantham deliver? Old-school, blue-colored high-top Nike shoes.
Camacho might be the only teenager in the state to win a regional title Saturday night wearing that rare brand of shoes. And he will bring them next week to the Tacoma Dome for Mat Classic.
The Hawks’ senior saw one of the ranked wrestlers in his 160-pound weight class — Sumner’s Jed Schliesman – in the finals. Combine raw power and emerging technique, and you’ve got the new-and-improved Camacho, who easily won, 7-2, at Steilacoom High School.
The 2A SPSL swept the top three spots in the team title race, won by Orting (1601/2 points), which crowned five regional champions. Sumner (135) was the runner-up, followed by Fife (131) and top Evergreen Conference finisher Tumwater (128).
The Thunderbirds had just one finalist — Clark Smith, who lost in the 170-pound finals to Washington’s Jacob Nelson, 8-3. But they did advance seven wrestlers to next weekend’s state championships in Tacoma.
The biggest winner from the EvCo was Centralia, which crowned three champions — ninth-grader Layn Pannkuk at 106, sophomore Bryce Bock at 113 and junior Kyzer Bailey at 182.
“This is what we expected,” Centralia coach Scott Phillips said. “These are our three guys that club wrestle all year long, and consistently have won all year long because they put in the work.”
Bailey was locked into a third meeting with W.F. West’s Shane Gibson, who upset one of the co-favorites, Orting’s Jarred Hipple, in the semifinals.
But after two closer victories at the Bearcat Invitational and last week’s EvCo subdistrict tournament, Bailey was much more dominating Saturday night.
He took Gibson down twice in each of the first and second rounds, then got him caught in a cross-face cradle move for a near-fall just 12 seconds into the third round en route to an 11-2 win.
“This match, he stuck to the game plan, and that was using motion and moving his feet,” Phillips said.
Back to Camacho, who last season was known more as a mauler, using brute strength to win matches. He advanced to the Class 2A state semifinals before being dismantled by three-time state champion Bobby Reece of Kingston. He ended up placing fifth at 160.
This season, former four-time state champion Jimmy Belleville of Black Hills returned to the area and took over as the coach at River Ridge. He assembled a pretty impressive staff, too, including former Hawks state champion Marques Ford.
“We get every look at practice — the grapplers, throwers and with Jimmy shooting (takedowns) on us,” Camacho said. “I am 10 times better. Last year I was just a scrapper. Now I know what to do in certain situations.”Todd Milles: 253-597-8442 firstname.lastname@example.org