TACOMA – The State 3A wrestling championship is staying in Spokane.
Behind six wrestlers who each earned medals, North Central captured its first state championship Saturday during Mat Classic XXVI at the Tacoma Dome. The Indians’ previous best finish was third in 2010.
NC knew it needed just two of its three finalists to win to secure the title, and freshman Clai Quintanilla did his part with a 5-1 victory to start things off at 106 pounds.
But when a Sunnyside wrestler pulled out a late victory over a Decatur finalist at 126, the Indians began celebrating.
Here’s how impressive NC’s title is – the Indians didn’t have a wrestler in eight of 14 classes.
“I’m amazed,” NC coach and alumnus Luke Leifer said. “To come in here with six is unbelievable. Usually this is a numbers game. You’ve got to get the numbers through and then you have to have the horses. We had the horses. I’m in shock.”
Yes the Indians had the horses.
It was a heartbreaking setback for Decatur, which finished runner-up for a second straight year. University topped the 3A field last year with Decatur four points back.
NC finished with 108.5 points, 8.5 ahead of Decatur. University (94) took fourth.
The Quintanilla brothers doubled their pleasure with individual titles. Freshman Clai won 5-1 at 106 pounds and Izaec, a junior, repeated with a 3-2 decision at 160.
Clai wants three more titles after this season.
“It’s the hardest I’ve worked all year this week,” Clai said. “It’s great to come in my freshman year and win the team title.”
Izaec wasn’t happy with his match.
“I wanted more than that,” he said.
But he was overjoyed with the team title.
“We came to play,” Izaec said. “We weren’t messing around.”
In Leifer’s heart of hearts, he knew winning a team title would be a tall task. He resigned himself to contending for a trophy – any kind of trophy.
“We told the kids that it would take a perfect state tournament but it’s so hard to accomplish,” Leifer said. “Every time you think you’ve got this place figured out, it’ll turn around and just kick you in the butt. You never get too excited and get your hopes up because crazy stuff happens at this tournament. They had to have absolute tunnel vision.
“The other thing too is once you get in the hunt in the team race then you get some momentum going. All of a sudden one guy wins a close match and the next guy is fired up because of it. We just kept the ball rolling.”
Two of three Titans claimed gold.
In an all-GSL final at 170, U-Hi’s Austin Stannard held off Bryson Pierce of NC 3-1.
It was redemption for Stannard, who fell in the final a year ago on a late controversial call.
“It feels really good,” Stannard said. “We’ve wrestled quite a few times. It was a tough match.”
Titans heavyweight Tate Orndorff pinned his way to a title, pasting Dallon Grinder of Hanford to the mat in 1:52. It was the fifth time they wrestled this season and the fifth time Orndorff pinned.
“I knew if I got an under hook on him I could hip toss him,” Orndorff said. “It means everything to me. This is my life. It’s been my dream since I was little.”
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