There is no bigger stage in Washington High School wrestling than the Mat Classic. On Saturday, nine East County wrestlers made the most of their chance under the bright lights of the Tacoma Dome to finish the season with a medal.
The Montesano High School wrestling team earned 62 points at the 2014 1A Washington State Wrestling Championships, known as Mat Classic XXVI, held last Friday and Saturday. The effort earned the Bulldogs a ninth-place finish as a team out of the 51 schools that were represented at the 1A tournament. Montesano’s Jacob Ellefson, 113, Kylar Prante, 160, and Anthony Louthan, 170, each overcame one loss to place third and Austin Cain, 132, and Taylor Rupe, 195, each placed seventh.
“We’ve never had a day like that since me and (assistant coach Jeff) Catterlin have been here,” Monte coach Jeff Klinger said. “This is what you want. All of them are happy. Maybe they aren’t happy with their medal, but they went out on top and won a match.”
All four of the wrestlers that the Elma High School wrestling team brought to the Mat Classic placed and the Eagles finished in 14th place with 52.5 points. Senior Tanner Sample was the highest overall finisher of all of the nine East County grapplers as he came within one win of a state championship, losing the title match at 126 pounds to take second place in the weight class. After a loss in his second match of the tournament, senior Brek McGaughy fought his way back to go undefeated on Saturday and place third. Senior Austin Cristelli finished sixth at 152 pounds and senior Tyson Dick placed seventh at 145 pounds.
“We brought four kids and had four placers,” Elma coach Jason Dick said. “I’m proud of all four boys.”
Sample earned his way into the final at 126 pounds without letting any of his three opponents score more than one point, but in the final he had a hard time creating any kind of offense against Victor Almaguer of Granger. Early in the match, a hold from Almaguer tweaked Sample’s left shoulder, but Sample wasn’t about to give up on his final match. The senior earned an escape in the first period, but wasn’t able to score at all after that point in an 8-1 loss.
“Tanner wrestled and gave it his all and I’m proud of him,” Jason Dick said. “There isn’t an ounce of energy that that boy didn’t spend out there to try and win that match. There is nothing you can say to a guy who has just lost in the state finals to make him feel better, especially a senior. He has had a very successful career and is one of the best wrestlers to come through Elma, a four-time state participant and just a great young man.”
For Sample, coming so close to a championship and falling short was hard to deal with, but he said he was proud of his entire career as an Eagle.
“That one match was a heartbreaker,” Sample said. “But for as long as I’ve been doing it and the amount of stuff I’ve done through Elma and freestyle wrestling. Three-time state placer, I’m proud of that and my whole career in general.”
McGaughy’s career had a slightly different arch from Sample’s as the 220-pounder earned just one victory in his first year wrestling for Elma. McGaughy dedicated himself and on Saturday his hand was raised as the third-place finisher. He lost to sixth-place finisher Mikey Hernandez of Warden in his second match and proceeded to cut through his next four opponents and defeated Jerry Reyes of Warden to end his career with a state medal.
“I’m so happy,” McGaughy said. “It means everything. I was an alternate to state last year. It took a lot of offseason wrestling and just doing the extra stuff that nobody else has to do.”
Each of the Montesano wrestlers who placed third took a different path to get to the medal. Each finished the tournament proud of his effort, but with a little bit of regret without having earned a chance at the championship.
Ellefson went into the Mat Classic undefeated and ended the year with only one loss — to the eventual state champion, Dalton Young of Lakeside. The two freshman wrestlers met in the semifinal match that Young won, 7-0. The score may have seemed lopsided, but it was the only match that Young did not win by a pin in the first two periods.
“It was a really good experience,” Ellefson said. “It feels really good. Hard work pays off.”
Ellefson wasn’t the only Bulldog to lose his only match to the eventual state champion. Prante gave Antonio Melendez of Quincy his closest match of the tournament with a 5-4 decision in his second match. The sophomore wrestled strong throughout the rest of the tournament to hold each of his opponents at or below two points.
Louthan had possibly the toughest road to his third-place finish as he lost his first match to Shane Armstrong of Vashon Island. Louthan and Armstrong met in the match for third and fourth place at last year’s Mat Classic. The junior worked his way back into the match for third place again this year and he wasn’t about to go home fourth. Louthan trailed 3-2 with less than a minute in the match and he earned a reversal with 22.2 seconds on the clock. Unable to hold Travis Lindsey of Mt. Baker, Louthan gave up an escape with just over one second on the clock and the match went into overtime. In the extra period, Louthan earned a takedown and won, 6-4. Louthan said the feeling was much better than last year.
“Anthony did the hardest thing you can do besides win a state title, it might even be harder, lose your first match and come all the way through,” Klinger said.
For Tyson Dick, the Mat Classic was filled with frustrations as leading 10-0 over Jesse Schmidlkofer of Freeman, Dick made a misstep and Schmidlkofer got the senior into a headlock and choked him out. After Dick passed out on the first day, he tried to come back, but suffered almost the same result against Stephen Spading of Kalama. When leading 8-0, he was choked into submission before a pin. There was some redemption for Tyson Dick in the seventh-place match as he defeated Schmidlkofer 15-0.
With all four of Elma’s participants being seniors, this marked the end of an era in Eagle wrestling, yet the tournament was much of a show of promise for the Montesano wrestlers. None of the six Bulldogs who earned a spot at the Mat Classic are seniors and four are freshman. This year may have not ended with a state championship for Montesano, but Klinger said he is looking forward to the future of the program.
“I’m really happy with our kids,” Klinger said. “They are young and they are going to be back. I’m excited for next year already.”