Clad in a Medical Lake High singlet, freshman Ethan Davis felt the elation of capturing a 132-pound State 1A title in at Mat Classic XXIX at the Tacoma Dome last February.
Four months later, Davis and his Team Washington cohorts – an assembly of the state’s best 15- and 16-year-old Greco Roman and freestyle wrestlers – are aiming for a national title in Spokane.
Teams from more than 20 states made the trek to the Spokane Convention Center this week to compete in the Cadet National Duals, a four-day team tournament governed by USA Wrestling.
For the first time in the event’s 18-year history, the national championships are in the western United States. The tournament, which began Wednesday and runs through Saturday, was previously hosted in Colorado, Missouri, Minnesota, Florida and Pennsylvania.
“We used to have a three-day travel schedule to get to the championships, so it’s nice to be at home,” said Davis, a member of one of the two Washington teams in the tournament. “It’s good to be in a facility you’re familiar with.”
Each team sported team gear with the namesake of their respective states, many stocked with state high school champions and NCAA Division I recruits.
For Mead High sophomore Chase Randall, representing the Lilac City and the state of Washington is special.
“It’s great because you get to prove your place among the nation’s best and represent your state,” said Randall, a State 4A runner-up at 113 pounds last season. “It’s cool having Team Washington on your back.”
Team Washington’s roster is littered with local athletes, including Ky Haney, Mt. Spokane; Dylan Straley, Cheney; Juan Escobar, Shadle Park; Jakob Connors, Mead; Braxton Mikesell, Central Valley; Thizzelle Walton, North Central; and Kaden Krouse, Chewelah.
Mikesell, who wrestles at 220, has won more than a dozen freestyle and Greco state championships.
Rylan Rogers, an incoming freshman from Clarkston, believes Team Washington has the means to win a national team title on its own soil.
“A lot of people don’t think of Washington for wrestling,” Rogers said. “But we’ve been among the top at duals. If we win it this year, we’ll get a lot more respect.”
Being able to practice on days that would normally be reserved for travel, Greg Ford, one of Team Washington’s coaches, likes his team’s chances of a high finish.
Ford said wrestling-rich Iowa, Illinois, Pennsylvania and Ohio are among the favorites for a championship.
“This is the first time of having two (Washington) teams at the national duals. Our guys are going to be fresher longer. They’re in their home state,” Ford said. “They’re more relaxed and confident in their home turf, so we have a better chance of winning.”