Yelm High's Harris caps unbeaten season at Mat Classic

Staff writerFebruary 22, 2014 

— Perfection.

That’s what it was for Yelm High junior Darren Harris in his quest for not only an unbeaten record, but an unprecedented pin streak at the final day of Mat Classic XXVI.

Harris became a two-time state champion Saturday with his 5-0 win over Central Valley’s Bryson Beard in the Class 4A 120-pound title match. And while he was happy about the win, he wasn’t the most ecstatic.

He did cap off an undefeated season at 35-0, but fell short of another big goal: a pin in every match. He missed pinning Beard in the finals for what would’ve been 35 victories with 35 pins, and the way Beard set the tone early, Harris said he knew a pin would be tough. He had a pair of takedowns early for a 4-0 advantage.

“He knew I was working for the pin, I think,” said Harris, who also failed to surrender a takedown all year. “When the referee blew the whistle, he didn’t really make a move. He gave me the first move.”

He’s now a state champion at 103 and 120 pounds; he finished runner-up at 113 a year ago and is now 94-7 with 86 pins in three seasons.

“I’m glad I got the win,” he said. “I’m pretty happy about it, knowing that’ it’s my second (state title).”

Harris paced Yelm in the team race; the Tornados finished sixth with 89 points in Class 4A, getting five other state placers: Brandon Rochester (third, 152), Brian Rochester (sixth, 132), Holden Miller (sixth, 182), Bo Campbell (sixth, 170), and James Rodeman (eighth, 160).

THURSTON COUNTY CHAMPS

It was a successful final day for several wrestlers, as six wrestlers from Thurston County won Mat Classic titles.  

Many expected Harris to win, but there were some surprises, too. One of them was Tenino senior Dom Nakano, who, in his first and only Mat Classic appearance, won the 195-pound title at Class 1A in a 7-2 decision over Vashon’s Preston Morris. Nakano previously had never made it out of sub-regionals in his career before two weekends ago, then beat three wrestlers ranked in the top-5 1A rankings this weekend on his way to his state title.

“This is the best thing ever for me,” he said.

Tied at 2 with Morris in the second round, Nakano rattled off five quick points.

“I didn’t want to go into overtime,” Nakano said. “He’s a big, strong guy. I had to do whatever I could to get my points.”

GRANTHAM GETS HIS FIRST

The final 30 seconds of Jake Grantham’s 220-pound final in Class 3A were a blur.

In one of the toughest matches of his career, the North Thurston senior went from a 6-2 lead second-round lead to a 7-all tie in the final 20 seconds against Mount Spokane’s Tom Harvey, Class 3As top-ranked wrestler, whom Grantham described as “very technical, very fast, and well-conditioned.”

Grantham’s reversal with 10 seconds to go sealed it: a 9-7 win to cap off his career as a state champion and a three-time state placer.

“I had no strength left – it was all me wanting to win,” Grantham said. “I was hanging on for dear life. I used my strength when I needed it. And saved it when I didn’t.”

Grantham’s state title adds to fourth-place finish in 2A as a sophomore and a sixth-place showing in 3A a year ago, both at 195. He’s also North Thurston’s first state champion since Kyle Kinney won the heavyweight title in 2001.

“I’ve been wrestling since I was 4 years old, and this is the one thing everyone want to get to,” Grantham said, “and it’s finally here.”

JOHNSON MAKES TUMWATER HISTORY

It was hard to tell what Tumwater senior Megan Johnson was more happy about Saturday — closing out her high school career with a girls 155-pound state title, or the shiner above her left eye.

“I got one? — yes!” Johnson exclaimed following defeating Washougal freshman Abby Lees in the title match.

She was happy, all right — for a state title and a black eye.  

In her third year of wrestling — she does it to stay in shape for rugby, she said — Johnson faced and defeated Lees for the third time this season — all on points, including the 6-2 win in the finals.

She faced a little more pressure, she said, to win it all given her prior success against Lees. She also became the T-Birds’ first girl to win a state title.

“I always tell myself ‘I’m going to beat, but I’m never going to lose,’” Johnson said. “I wasn’t going to lose to her.”

EASTMAN CONTINUES FAMILY TRADITION

Lucas Eastman was bombarded by friends and family members after his 152-pound final, a 10-4 victory over Omak’s Alex Aguilar.

Eastman’s win continues a long tradition of Mat Classic champions in the Eastman family. He becomes the third Eastman to win a state title, joining older brothers Justin (145, 152) and Zach (130).

Justin Eastman is in his second year as the Warriors’ coach.

“I’ve learned so much, and we’ve worked for this all of our lives,” said Lucas Eastman, who fell in the 145 final a year ago. “It’s definitely a great feeling to share it with the family.”

AROUND THE MATS

— If there was an award for best-dressed, it belonged to the River Ridge coaching staff.

Following Elijah Camacho’s semifinal victory to clinch a spot in the Class 2A final at 160 pounds, head coach Jimmy Belleville and assistants Joel McGill and Tyler Michaelis beelined it to the Tacoma Mall to pick up all-white suites and navy-blue shirts to match Camacho’s singlet-of-choice: all-white with navy-blue lettering.  They changed into their title-match wardrobe just prior to finals’ opening ceremonies.  

“We were hurrying,” Michaelis said.

Camacho fell in the finals, 9-1, to Cedarcrest’s Ely Malametz, but leaves as a two-time state placer.

— Of the area’s other semifinalists, three finished in the top six: Olympia’s Logan Pine (138) earned fifth place in 4A, Timberline’s Nico Laiuppa (120) was sixth in 3A and River Ridge's Daniel Montesa (132) was fifth at 2A. It was an all-2A Evergreen Conference consolation bout between Montesa and Black Hills’ Gage Keesee for fifth. Montesa won, 3-1, giving Keesee seventh. Teammate Nick Knittle was eighth at 138. … Tumwater had three placers in the heavier weights: Clark Smith (fifth, 170), Sam Richards (sixth, 195) and Dylan Smith (sixth, 220) at 2A. Four of Timberline’s six wrestlers placed. In addition to Laiuppa at 120, Gage George was eighth at 120, and Parker Risk (106) and Dan Coulter (220) were each sixth in 3A.

Meg Wochnick: 360-754-5473

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