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Wednesday, October 21, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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North Central’s Clai Quintanilla finishes as first GSL four-time state wrestling champ

North Central’s Clai Quintanilla reacts after defeating Kelso’s Jordan Miller 16-5 during the State 3A 132-pound championship. (Patrick Hagerty / Patrick Hagerty Special to The Spokesman-Review)
North Central’s Clai Quintanilla reacts after defeating Kelso’s Jordan Miller 16-5 during the State 3A 132-pound championship. (Patrick Hagerty / Patrick Hagerty Special to The Spokesman-Review)

TACOMA – Clai Quintanilla of North Central did something Saturday that hasn’t been done in the 41-year history of the Greater Spokane League.

Quintanilla became the league’s first four-time state wrestling champion.

And Quintanilla did it with his typical flair. He posted a 16-5 major decision – never out of position and always aggressive in the Mat Classic XXIX final at 132 pounds in the State 3A tournament at the Tacoma Dome.

Making it even sweeter for Quintanilla is it happened on his 18th birthday.

“It’s something I’ve been working for my whole life,” Quintanilla said of being the GSL’s first four-time champ. “The first time I stepped into the high school room I was thinking about becoming the first four-time state champ. It’s been nothing but hard work from there and help from coaches and teammates and love and support from my family and the community.”

Quintanilla’s older brother, Izaec, won three state titles.

As Quintanilla was mapping out his final season, he saw that his 18th birthday fell on Saturday of the state tourney.

“It was pretty ironic but it was really good,” he said. “I just went out there and wrestled how I wrestle. If I do that I know I can hang with anybody.”

And usually dominate everybody.

NC coach Luke Leifer was all smiles afterward.

“It’s pretty unbelievable,” Leifer said. “The thing about the state tournament is the stars have to kind of align, everything’s got to go your way, and you have to stay injury free. And there’s a lot of pressure – probably more pressure as the years went by. Crazy stuff can happen in the Dome. But he’s so competitive and so focused; you could just tell he was going to take all of it out.”

And the 18th birthday?

“What are the odds?” Leifer said. “It’s a total cherry on top.”

Quintanilla’s title and that of teammate Clayton Gilliam (120) led NC to fourth. The Indians finished with 112.5 points. Bonney Lake (137) edged Kelso (134) for the team title.

Gilliam used a late takedown for a 5-2 win.

“A whole lot of hard work paid off,” said Gilliam, who took second as a freshman last year.

Jake Howerton of Mt. Spokane, he of one leg because of a meniscus tear, held on to win 11-9 at 126.

Howerton had a 10-5 lead before giving up a takedown and two back points late.

“I stopped wrestling and was looking at the clock, trying to get it over with,” Howerton aid. “It was a mistake I’ll not make again. I should have been wrestling the whole time because I had him on his feet the whole match. It’s a dream I’ve been waiting for for a long time.”

As expected in the 152-pound championship, Dew Rogers of Shadle Park and Bryan Wais of NC faced off for a third straight week.

In the rubber match, Rogers, who won two state titles in Alaska before moving in late September, topped Wais, a defending champ, 4-3 in triple overtime.

For a defensive match, both wrestlers worked extremely hard. Neither wanted to give up a takedown.

The match went to overtime with each scoring an escape in regulation. Rogers got a takedown with six seconds left in the third overtime.

“Don’t doubt AK (Alaska),” Rogers shouted after the match. “It’s a rough spot to live. You’ve got calluses on your hands. We work hard. We’ve got soul and we’re super bad. It’s just what it is.”

Neither Rogers nor Wais deserved to lose.

“He’s a real tough competitor – one of the best guys I’ve wrestled in my entire life.”

Jarrett Sharp (106) and Blake Haney (113) of Mt. Spokane and Gavin Gies (138) of NC finished second.

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