Blayne Haderman already has a designated space on the wall of River Ridge High School’s mat room.
He’ll get a gray plaque — to hang alongside plaques of other former Hawks state placers — honoring his finish at Mat Classic last year, when he took fourth in Class 2A at 220 pounds.
Surprised and pleased as Haderman was with that finish, his sights are set higher entering this year’s state tournament, which begins Friday at the Tacoma Dome.
“Fourth place — I’ve been there,” said Haderman, a senior. “I know a lot of people want to place at state, but I think the real goal now is to be on that side.”
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He looked to a different wall. Just left of the mirrors hang four navy plaques shaped like Washington state.
Those recognize the three state champions in the history of the River Ridge program — Greg Ford Jr. (2004), Jacob Tarvin (2005) and Marques Ford (2008, 2010).
Haderman — who has been 2A’s top-ranked wrestler at 220 pounds all season — wants one of those.
“Ever since regionals ended, it’s just been gearing up for state,” Haderman said. “I haven’t stopped thinking about it this entire week. … It’s kind of hard not to. It’s my last year. I’m ranked No. 1.
“I don’t know if people are expecting me to stay that way, but I really want to.”
Haderman has quietly but efficiently worked his way to a 28-1 record this season. Despite an impressive resume, Haderman doesn’t radiate bravado.
During football season, River Ridge coach Steve Schultz called Haderman one of the team’s “silent giants.”
Raymond Jay, Haderman’s wrestling coach, said he is humble about his talent.
“He gets nervous before every match, and that’s good, because it shows a true competitor,” Jay said. “It doesn’t matter how good (an opponent) is — he wrestles the same. He never overlooks a competitor.”
“You can’t take anyone for granted — not at all,” Haderman said.
Jay said the humility and the quiet demeanor seem to give Haderman an advantage.
“I want to be nice, kind, humble and try to be a good person,” Haderman said. “I think some people might look at me and say, ‘Oh, I can take this guy.’
“Maybe it’s unexpected. I think it’s all in the demeanor.”
Jay said everything about Haderman’s wrestling strategy is planned out. He is rarely out of position, and that has helped him to such an impressive record.
“He doesn’t do anything fancy,” Jay said. “He just wrestles and gets off the mat as soon as he can.”
Haderman was 23-0 before Lincoln’s Will Willsey — the 3A state runner up last year — beat him at the River Ridge Rumble in January.
He lost, 5-3, in an overtime period.
“I really wanted to make sure I didn’t lose after that,” Haderman said. “It’s still burning.”
Haderman won’t see Willsey again, but said a state title would remedy that one loss.
“I’m trying to bring it home this time,” he said.
Haderman plans to join the military after graduation, which is part of the reason he’s worked so hard training this season.
He wanted to improve his physical and mental toughness, and eventually hopes to become a Navy SEAL.
“Now that I’m getting older and maturing, I’m really trying to push myself a lot harder,” Haderman said. “No matter how hard it gets, I try to stick with it.
“I think having that goal as a career has really pushed me towards becoming a better wrestler.”
Haderman said his experience with Taekwondo has played a part in his success. He started fighting when he was 9 years old, and has competed with the U.S. national team.
In 2014, he won a bronze medal at an international competition in Cali, Colombia.
“I think that laid the foundation for everything,” Haderman said.
Haderman said he is still involved in Taekwondo off and on, but wrestling has taken priority — at least this weekend.
“I don’t think I’ve been so serious about a tournament like this before,” Haderman said. “It’s just been training, training, training.”
What the bracket looks like doesn’t matter much to Haderman. He’s looked at it, but just once.
“I truly think that’s the character of him,” Jay said. “He takes it one battle at a time.”
Haderman is just ready to get there.
“The work’s been done,” he said. “Now I’ve just got to go up to the Dome, and it’s got to be all out. I can’t hold back.”
Mat Classic XXIX primer
Friday-Saturday, Tacoma Dome
2016 team champions: 4A — Lake Stevens. 3A — Arlington. 2A — Toppenish. 1A — Deer Park. 2B/1B — Warden. Girls — Grandview.
Schedule: Friday — Session I, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. (first-round matches). Session II, 3:30-9:30 p.m. (quarterfinal and consolation matches). Saturday — Session III, 10 a.m.-1 p.m. (semifinal and consolation matches). Session IV – 2-8 p.m. (all medal matches, including championships).
Tickets: Daily passes are $17 for adults, $13 for students and senior citizens. Tournament passes are $25 for adults, $19 for students and senior citizens.
4A — Layn Pannkuk, Olympia, sr. (152).
3A — Gavin Stewart, Yelm, jr. (113); Gary Garcia, North Thurston, fr. (113); Mason Harrison, Yelm, sr. (120); Steven Reyes, Yelm, soph. (126); Nate Smith, Timberline, sr. (132); Parker Risk, Timberline, sr. (132); Ed Skill, Timberline, sr. (138); Chayton Miller, Yelm, soph. (160); Adam Benson, Timberline, sr. (170); Tyler Losch, Yelm, sr. (170); Derrick Platt, Yelm, soph. (182); Noah Winder, North Thurston, jr. (195); Jeremy Smith, Yelm, sr. (195); Kai Burgman, North Thurston, soph. (220); Skylor Mottner, Yelm, jr. (285).
2A — Jeremy Brant, Rochester, soph. (106); Roehre Cunningham, W.F. West, jr. (106); Colton Burke, Black Hills, soph. (106); Levi Walters, W.F. West, jr. (113); Jacob Paris, Rochester, sr. (113); Mykka McAllister, Centralia, jr. (120); Jayden Lancaster, Rochester, fr. (126); Nolan Keese, Black Hills, soph. (132); Joseph Morrisey, Tumwater, jr. (132); Mason Burbidge, Tumwater, soph. (138); Damon Thomas, W.F. West, sr. (138); Jacob Nowels, W.F. West, sr. (138); Colton Severson, Tumwater, sr. (145); Michael Anderson, W.F. West, sr. (152); Caleb Grondel, Tumwater, jr. (160); Tristan Dickey, Centralia, jr. (160); EJ Matagi, W.F. West, sr. (160); Matthew Lund, Tumwater, jr. (170); Zach Jones, Tumwater, sr. (170); Brendenn Spahr, W.F. West, sr. (182); Trace Spath, Tumwater, soph. (195); Brayden Bostwick, W.F. West, sr. (220); Mario Mungia, Centralia, sr. (220); Blayne Haderman, River Ridge, sr. (220); Caden Hicks, Tumwater, soph. (220); Hunter Arredondo, W.F. West, sr. (285); Cy Hicks, Tumwater, jr. (285).
1A — Colten French, Elma, jr. (120); Andrew Persell, Elma, jr. (126); Justin Sample, Elma, jr. (138); Matt Hitchiner, Elma, jr. (152); Stuard Barta, Tenino, sr. (182); Tyrick Weyrauch, Tenino, jr. (195).
2B/1B — Curtis Lenz, Rainier, sr. (106); Tyler Barlas, Rainier, fr. (106); Brody Klein, Rainier, fr. (132); Ted Lester, Rainier, soph. (145); David Hoover, Rainier, jr. (170).
Girls — Phoenix Dubose, Yelm, so. (115 pounds); Brooklyn Cutler, Yelm, fr. (115); Hailey Henry, Olympia, jr. (120); Carly Smith, Yelm, fr. (125); Samantha Tietzel, Centralia, sr. (125); Chelsey Rochester, Yelm, jr. (135); Ariana Zemke, Yelm, sr. (145); Jasmine Welch, Yelm, sr. (170); Quinn Lacy, Shelton, so. (170).
4A — Olympia’s Layn Pannkuk is the only local competitor. He’s seasoned — this will be his fourth Mat Classic appearance — but will have a tough road at 152 pounds after scrambling for the No. 3 seed out of last weekend’s regional at Curtis. Pannkuk jumped up two weight classes this season after finishing seventh at 126 pounds as a sophomore, and fifth at 138 pounds last season as a junior. Tahoma and Curtis are the favorites to battle for the team title.
3A — Two Tornados and one Blazer are back — sort of. Yelm’s Tyler Losch (seventh, 182) and Jeremy Smith (third, 195), and Timberline’s Adam Benson (eighth, 160) are all returning state placers. But, all three wrestled in 4A last season. Benson (now at 170 pounds) and Smith (195) both won regional titles at Bonney Lake. Yelm’s Steven Reyes (126) is also a regional champ. Eight Tornados qualified, keeping Yelm in the mix for a podium spot. Bonney Lake — which beat Yelm at regionals — is the state favorite.
2A — Plenty to see here from top-ranked wrestlers and loaded teams. River Ridge’s Blayne Haderman has been the top-ranked 220 wrestler in 2A all season after placing fourth behind three seniors last year. He’s 28-1 entering Friday. ... W.F. West — which has nine qualifiers and crowned six regional champs in Ridgefield last weekend — could contend with Orting and Toppenish for the team title. Roehre Cunningham (sixth, 106), Damon Thomas (second, 138), Michael Anderson (third, 152) and Hunter Arredondo (second, 285) are all returning state placers. ... Centralia’s Mykka McAllister (eighth, 120) and Tumwater’s Cy Hicks (third, 285) are also back. The 2A Evergreen Conference alone has 26 qualifiers.
1A/2B/1B — Rainier’s Curtiz Lenz (fourth, 106) is the only returner from last season. He cruised to a regional title last weekend at Adna, and is the top-ranked 2B/1B wrestler in the state at 106 pounds.
Girls — Federal Way is the only team in the state likely to get in Yelm’s way. The Eagles topped the Tornados at the regional championships at Decatur last weekend. Yelm enters Mat Classic as the second-ranked team in the state. Yelm’s Phoenix Dubose — who took sixth at 105 pounds as a freshman — and Carly Smith are regional champions.
Lauren Smith: firstname.lastname@example.org