The worst fears of Eastern Washington high school wrestling coaches were realized during the Region IVAAA tournament at Central Valley.
“It’s the toughest region and we just keep cutting each other up,” said coach Ron Siebel from team champion Moses Lake.
Unbeaten defending state champions were upset. State placers didn’t even make it back.
And teams were left with quality wrestlers, but not quantity.
Siebel is hoping that’s enough.
“It’s going to be a low-scoring tourney,” he said. “I feel someone from this region can win, whoever’s on.”
Moses Lake, which scored 140 regional points, qualified eight wrestlers to state with a solid afternoon performance.
“Our kids wrestled as well as they were capable,” said Siebel.
Five of them were finalists, three finished third. Only one, however, won a championship, which concerned him.
Runner-up Wenatchee, with 111 points, had six qualifiers, two of them champions. Three finished fourth.
Third-place Kennewick, 110-1/2 points, sent five qualifiers but no No.1s.
University had four finalists and shared honors with Gonzaga Prep for most champions - two.
“The thing that broke our back is we left a kid at home that could have placed,” said coach Don Owen, referring to 122-pounder Conor Jordan. “Unfortunately he wrestled state champions back-to-back.”
The top four wrestlers in 14 weight classes advanced to state from the tournament. Big Nine schools earned 33 of 56 berths overall.
The Greater Spokane League had only 11 finalists but won eight championships.
Two were decided in overtime. In the first, Central Valley’s Shane Cunanan defeated Richland’s defending state champ Aaron Mann 8-6 at 122 pounds. Mann was 26-0 going into the contest.
“We’ve wrestled five times and I’d never beaten him,” said Cunanan.
He built a 6-2 lead with escapes and duck-under takedowns. With 32 seconds left, he broke a tie with his third takedown of the night.
“I thought the whole match was a big scramble and I came out on top,” said Cunanan.
In the other overtime match, Gonzaga Prep’s Chris Montgomery got an escape and penalty point to tie Juan Villa at 108. He won with an unconventional takedown move.
“He’s probably the scrappiest person I’ve ever wrestled against,” said the 33-1 Montgomery. “It’s only the second time I’ve used the move in a match. I kinda sit on the hips, wrap him up and walk over.”
Right afterward, U-Hi’s Jared Osborn (115 pounds) was dinged two questionable stalling points after leading Peter Zamora 3-1 and also needed an overtime takedown to win.
“I was looking to shoot but couldn’t do it in the position I was in,” said Osborn, 34-2 for the year. “If I had shot I’d have been in a worse position.”
Two-time state champion Andy Roberts ran his record to 34-1 with an easy win at 129 pounds. It was in the semifinals where he was pushed to the limit before winning by a take-down.
“I hope I get that out of my system,” he said.
Gonzaga’s Nick Bliss dominated at 148 pounds and built a 9-2 lead to beat Jeremiah Stilley 9-5 in the final.
Freshman 158-pounder Ryan Anstrom from Rogers, who has avenged each of his three losses this year, manhandled Jody Chlarson of Moses Lake 13-6.
He gave much of the credit to his older brother, Aaron Watson, a former Rogers state wrestler.
“I’ve been working with him,” said Anstrom. “He’s wrestled with me a lot.”
In an all-GSL 168-pound finale, North Central’s Brian Thatcher avenged last week’s district finals loss to U-Hi’s Sam Butler, winning 3-2 on a reversal with 8 seconds left.
“I didn’t shoot on him as much,” said Thatcher. “Last time he ran around me for takedowns. This time I wrestled smarter.”
In the night’s finale, Mead 275-pounder Joe Collier made quick work of Jose Mendez, winning by pin in the first round.
“I didn’t want coach’s (Cash Stone) last match to be a loss,” said Collier. “We both went out winners.”
His 275-pound teammate, Art Avalon, was denied the other finals spot during an overtime loss following another iffy stall call.
Two-time state runner-up Jon Rugan of Mead and former state placer Daryl Groom of Rogers were victims of the tough 115- and 122-pound classes and will miss state. So too, will NC district champion Brian Burrow.
And after moving seven into the semifinals on Friday, Rogers qualified just two to state.
“I think regionals is mentally tougher on kids than state,” said Pirate coach Walt Arnold.
The survivors are banking that he’s right.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo
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