Ten Washougal and two Camas high school wrestlers are destined for the Tacoma Dome Friday. Those still competing against the best in the state Saturday achieve medals.
After losing to Hoquiam’s Bree Hyder a few weeks ago, Washougal’s Yaneli Martinez patiently waited for a rematch. The Panther got her wish in the 100-pound regional championship match Saturday, at Kelso High School, and pinned Hyder in 5 minutes, 3 seconds.
“It’s all in the heart. If you believe in it, you got it,” Martinez said. “My mom watched me wrestle for the first time. I wanted her to see how important this is to me, and I wanted to make her proud.”
Abby Lees had a whole year to think about losing her first high school regional championship match. The Washougal sophomore finished on top of the 155-pound bracket Saturday. She pinned Centralia’s Charliann McCall in 1:14.
“I was so mad when I lost last year. I really wanted this win,” Lees said.
The Panther and Tiger tangled for about a minute. Lees grabbed McCall’s leg and wouldn’t let go until she took her down and pounced on top.
“I saw the leg lots of times. That time, it was just perfect,” Lees said. “I’ve been practicing that over and over, and that’s the reason why.”
Lees has also had a year to reflect on her loss in the state championship match. She hopes for another opportunity for redemption.
“Give it my all and don’t hold back anything,” she said. “I’ve been working too hard to go home disappointed.”
After coming up on the short end of his 145-pound championship matches at the Pacific Coast, Clark County and district tournaments, Camas senior Bryant Elliott captured the regional championship Saturday at Kent Meridian High School.
“After those losses, I would write things down I needed to work on and post them on the wall so I could see them every day,” he said. “It feels good to finally get a gold medal at region. I told myself if I couldn’t win this tournament, there was no way I can win state. That was my mindset going into it.”
After outlasting Zach Berry, of Decatur High School in Federal Way, 8-7, Elliott defeated Sean Van Earwage, of Todd Beamer High School in Federal Way, 9-7 for the top prize.
Van Earwage beat top seed Tommy Strassenberg, of Union, 3-1 in the semifinals to meet Elliott in the finals. Strassenberg rebounded with a third-place finish to get to state.
Elliott hopes to get one more shot at Strassenberg at the state meet, but he is ready to take on all comers.
“I’ve set myself up well, I just have to deliver,” Elliott said. “All that matters is what you do at state. Nobody remembers how you did at region.”
Camas freshman Rylan Thompson took third place at 126 pounds. He beat Union’s Taggart Hartwig for the fourth time this season to qualify for state. Thompson trailed Battle Ground’s Jason Cole 10-2 before pinning him in the final round for third place.
“I knew I could beat him. I just had to turn him over, and I did,” Thompson said. “I never thought I would make it to state as a freshman. I just want to continue to push myself, work as hard as I can and know that I can beat anybody in front of me.”
Lacy Dunlop finished in fourth place for the Papermakers at the girls regional tournament, in Kelso, to become a state alternate.
Panthers achieve dreams
Washougal senior Jessica Eakins settled for second place at 105 pounds. Baylee Wright, Mialisa Oster and Morgan Ratcliff earned third-place medals and invitations to the Mat Classic. Hannah Eakins finished in fourth place to become a state alternate. This combined effort helped the Washougal girls place second at the 32-team regional meet.
“What we have accomplished so far reflects the hard work we do in the wrestling room,” Jessica Eakins said.
The Washougal boys snagged third place at the 18-team 2A regional meet Saturday, at Hudson’s Bay High School. Seniors Zach Oster and Jacob Brown fought through injuries to earn second place and return trips to the Tacoma Dome.
Brown came back strong from a dislocated shoulder injury, but then twisted his ankle during his final regional match and lost.
“God has given me the strength and determination to fight through the pain,” he said. “When you win with an injury, it’s just that much sweeter. You feel like nothing can stop you.”
Oster hyper-extended his elbow at region and couldn’t wrestle in the championship match. The senior is cleared to wrestle at state and wants to improve on his seventh-place finish as a sophomore.
“It’s cool that my sister gets to go with me,” Zach Oster said. “She’s a sophomore, and she wants to beat my record. I hope she does, as long as I place higher than her.”
Juniors AJ Christianson and Ruben Aguilar are going to state for the first time. Urich Reyes, Taylor Leifsen and Brandon McKee are alternates.
Christianson thanked his teammates, coaches, family members and neighbors for pushing him to second place at region.
“The harder the people you train with, the better prepared you are for what’s out there,” he said. “I wouldn’t be here today without them.”
Aguilar finished in fourth place at his first regional tournament. He’s been to the Tacoma Dome as a spectator. Now he’s going to wrestle on one of those 24 mats.
“All of my hard work paid off,” Aguilar said. “I just want to wrestle my hardest, and see how far I can go.”