EV Toughs It Out For 2nd In State
Unable to repeat last year’s state team wrestling championship, East Valley was nonetheless happy with second place in the new 3A classification at Mat Classic X.
“A second-place finish after a state championship might seem a step down,” said coach Craig Hanson. “But it was a great finish considering the competition.”
EV scored 93 points, nearly equal to last year’s title total. They placed six wrestlers and like last year had two finalists.
They did so despite competing in a region that included state 3A champion Moses Lake, which scored 164 points. The region also produced four champions among a dozen finalists and placed 38 wrestlers, an amazing 68 percent of its 56 entrants. Included was West Valley’s Ty Roberts, fifth at 141 pounds.
“It was a really tough situation going through,” said Hanson, “but we hung right with it. I couldn’t have been prouder the way we finished things up.”
In a battle for second with Lake Stevens, EV wrestlers responded during consolation action by winning their placing matches.
Last year’s runnerup, Justin Walker, 129 pounds, lost in his second match to a wrestler who was unbeaten until the finals, but came back for four straight wins, placing third with a pin.
“He had prepared for the finals and it went by the wayside,” said Hanson. “It was saddening, but like a true champion he battled back through.”
Rusty Ruchert, 168, denied a state berth for two successive years, lost his opener, then won five straight times, pinning a Moses Lake regional champion to also place third.
“There’s been a cloud over his head, but he finally made it and made it worthwhile,” said Hanson.
Kevin Woolf, 122, lost in the semifinals, but won the match for fifth place over a Lake Stevens wrestler to clinch second place. Jay Campbell, 135, added points by winning his match for seventh.
For the second straight year Brad Crockett finished second at 141 pounds, losing 7-6 to a defending champion.
“He almost found a way to score at the end, too,” said Hanson of Crockett’s late takedown attempt.
Sophomore John Sommer went from state participant in 1997 to state finalist this year at 101 pounds.
“We knew he had potential and John was just fantastic in the match to put himself in the finals,” said Hanson.
So there were few tears for the five placing seniors whose careers came to an end or for the sophomore whose career is only beginning.
“Even if we had gotten our potential (points) it was not going to be enough,” said Hanson. “Moses Lake just did a great job. I’m real happy.”
Out with the old, in with the new
Last weekend’s 4A state wrestling tournament brought closure to the careers of several outstanding wrestlers.
The showing by University also offered a glimpse of the future.
Team champion Central Valley’s Shane Cunanan and John Reese completed four-year careers that saw Cunanan finish third, fifth and second before winning this year’s 129-pound title.
“I thought I would do it,” he said. “I figured whomever I wrestled didn’t work harder than I did.”
Reese placed third as a sophomore and fifth last year before winning it all. He won over Ferris’s Ryan Ellis, who beat him twice earlier this year.
Valley residents Chris Montgomery and Nick Bliss, who both placed fourth at state for Gonzaga Prep, were also three-time placers.
Montgomery was fifth and finished second twice during his career. Bliss finished seventh, sixth and last weekend took third.
Meanwhile, University placed 13th in state because of three individuals who will be back next season.
“We return every point we scored,” said coach Don Owen. “And we’ll have others back who are a year older and wiser.”
For the Titan state placers it was all relative.
Freshman 101-pound champion Tommy Owen was one of four cousins to win state titles this year. The other three did so in Montana. He moved to the Valley from Coeur d’Alene, where his dad, John, coached North Idaho College so successfully for years.
Third-place finisher Conor Jordan, 135, and his three cousins, Kevin, Dusty and Andy Roberts, have won nine state medals for the Titans in this decade. Another cousin, Sean Ball of Kamiakin, is a two-time placer who was second this year.
Seventh-placer Ben Osborn is following the tradition of his brothers before him, who were top three placers.
“I thought Tommy was the best kid in the weight at state,” said Owen, who is his uncle. “As a freshman I didn’t know if he could handle the pressure of getting there.”
Owen won twice easily before facing his regional conqueror, Pasco’s Charlie Wright, in the semifinals. He reversed the 7-3 loss to Wright the previous week and then topped regional champion Eric Schwartz of Southridge 6-1 for the crown.
“Technically he is sound and dominated what was probably the toughest 101-pound class I’ve seen,” said Owen.
Jordan drew the toughest side of the 135-pound bracket, losing only to unbeaten champion Ravil Muhamediev, 7-3.
“He’d have been in the finals easily on the other side of the bracket,” said Owen. “He dominated just about every match.”
Wrestling and academics
Freeman junior Jeff Wigen became his school’s first placer at Mat Classic X since 1993.
The last placer? His brother Andy, who finished fifth five years ago. Another brother, David, finished fourth in 1989.
“Both were seniors and Jeff is just a junior,” said coach Ted Lundgren. “He competed very, very well.”
A questionable call in the quarterfinals cost him a 3-2 loss, but Wigen rebounded for two wins. He wound up sixth behind Liberty’s Dan Mewhinney in the A-B tournament.
Wigen completed the year with a 30-9 record and school mark for pins.
Freeman, which returns all but senior leader Eric Fulkerson, had four state competitors. Four others went along for the experience.
“When we got there we found we were A-B academic champions so all eight went down for the award,” said Lundgren. “It was very exciting.”
Basketball playoff update
A new defense helped East Valley’s girls become District 7 3A basketball champions and top seed in the regional tournament, which begins Friday.
The Knights used a triangle and two defense to stifle Cheney’s top two scorers in last Friday’s title game, a 43-27 upset. Earlier Cheney beat EV twice by a 20-point per game average.
“We saved the special defense the whole season, even though it killed me,” said Knight coach Darsi Frazier. “It frustrated the heck out of them.”
EV had lost leading scorer Rebecca Triplett with a shoulder injury on the opening tipoff, but got offense from freshman Sarah Shogren and rebounding from several sources. The team also shredded Cheney’s full-court pressure for easy baskets.
“I think the girls realized after Becca went out they had nothing to lose,” said Frazier. “Overall they played a heck of a game.”
East Valley plays Ellensburg at 7:45 p.m. Friday at Central Valley High School in the double-elimination tournament which continues all day Saturday at Eastern Washington University.
In other tourneys, Central Valley’s girls play Mead at 3:45 p.m. today and the CV boys play Gonzaga Prep at 9 p.m. in District 8 4A seeding games at the Arena.
Valley Christian meets Curlew tonight with a State B berth at stake in the District 7 B playoffs at Spokane Community College. The Panthers whipped Selkirk Tuesday night.
Freeman, its back to the wall, needs wins over Reardan Friday and Saturday at Mead to qualify for the State A tournament. Boths games are scheduled for 7:30 p.m. The Scotties thrashed Kettle Falls and Colville, but lost to Reardan in a controversial game last Saturday.
The season ended for West Valley’s boys and for the University and Freeman girls with Tuesday night playoff losses.