BONNEY LAKE — Saturday’s Region II wrestling championships represented a reprieve for Peninsula High senior Jake Ricco.
Ricco thought his high-school wrestling career — and his last chance at a state-tournament medal — had evaporated when he dropped a 5-2 decision to Decatur’s Christian Aragon at the Class 3A South Puget Sound League championships.
But there’s a reason officials assign alternates for postseason tournaments, and when a regional spot opened up at 145 pounds, Ricco’s second chance had come.
He ended up securing a trip to the Mat Classic XXV state tournament when he finished third in his division at Bonney Lake High School, and he’ll be one of six Peninsula wrestlers who will compete Friday and Saturday at the Tacoma Dome.
Ricco will open state on Friday against Hazen’s Malik Haythorne. He could earn an elusive medal with a pair of victories.
Ricco’s good fortune came at the expense of Enumclaw’s Lucas Somera, a two-time state champion who sustained a head injury at the SPSL meet. Somera had to withdraw from the regional tournament, and that set the stage for Ricco’s run.
Ricco wasn’t about take the second chance for granted.
“I kind of lost that shot, losing that match (to Aragon), and I had kind of a bad week,” he said. “Being the alternate my senior year doesn’t sound good, but when I got that shot, I did everything I could to get down to that weight, and I did.”
Ricco won three of four matches at the regional. He opened with an 11-3 major decision against North Thurston’s Michael LaFrenier. Aragon beat Ricco again, 8-2, but the Peninsula senior rebounded when he pinned Auburn Mountainview’s Nick Helms and Shelton’s Bernardo Olivas.
Poor health is an issue for many wrestlers late in the season. Ricco has dealt with it, too.
“I had a rib injury, and I had a broken nose at the beginning of the year,” he said. “Nothing you can do about it except work through it, fight the pain.”
Ricco wasn’t the only Seahawk to take advantage of an alternate’s spot from the SPSL tourney. Peninsula’s Zach Goddard earned his first state berth, advancing as the fourth-place finisher at 138 pounds.
Goddard, a sophomore, pinned Jonathan Thomas of Foss in the first round, then beat Robert Mathews of Lincoln, 4-2, in an elimination match. He will open Mat Classic against Dylan Read of Bainbridge.
The Seahawks had a solid effort at the regional, finishing fourth as a team with 130.5 points. Enumclaw won the title with 233 points, followed by Decatur and Bonney Lake.
Peninsula has two legitimate threats to win state titles, as seniors Casey Larson and Randy Nimrick both won regional championships.
Nimrick, a fourth-place state medalist in 2012, dominated his three regional foes at 138 pounds. He took down Lincoln’s Leonel Ocosta with a 16-0 technical fall, pinned Decatur’s Dennis Good and beat Bonney Lake’s Caid Caveness 7-3 in the title match.
Nimrick will open Mat Classic against Oak Harbor’s Mark Johnston.
Larson, looking for the third state medal of his career, was even more impressive as he won the 152-pound division. He took 48 seconds to pin North Thurston’s Eddie Harriage in the first round, then earned second-period pins against Enumclaw’s Garrett Roe and North Thurston’s Marcus Ulloth.
Larson will match up with Bellevue’s Cutter Podoll in a first-round bout at state.
Peninsula’s other state participants — senior Ryan Valley and sophomore Luke Holsinger — are first-timers.
Valley (132) earned the fourth and final berth from the region when he pinned Enumclaw’s Jayden Fend. He’ll open state against Oak Harbor’s Cody Fakkema.
Holsinger finished third at 170, and his only loss was to Decatur’s Nick Karis, a 2012 state runner-up. He pinned Wilson’s Chris Neiman, Decatur’s Christian Napper-Mercer and Lincoln’s Keidrick O’Bannon.
Holsinger will face Mountain View’s Brandon Proffitt on Friday afternoon, and he seems to be getting stronger as the season progresses. After he beat Neiman in the first round, he indicated his sophomore-season success isn’t complicated.
“Mat time is basically it, getting experience, knowing what to do in each position, it helps a lot,” Holsinger said. “I’ve gotten quicker.”
Three Seahawks failed to advance from the regional. Freshman Noah Endsley was sixth at 120, and sophomore Mitch Ludlow was sixth at 152. Freshman Chance Stolz was fifth at 195, and will be a state alternate.