TACOMA — Peninsula High wrestler Casey Larson came within an eyelash of giving himself a one-point lead late in the third round of Saturday’s Class 3A 152-pound title bout against North Central’s Izaec Quintanilla.
Larson, who trailed 7-4, started the third period in the bottom position, and he registered a reversal to cut the deficit to one. Then he put Quintanilla on his shoulder for a brief instant, but it wasn’t long enough to collect any near-fall points.
With about 30 seconds remaining in the match, Peninsula head coach Mark Nickels instructed Larson to let Quintanilla escape, with the goal of Larson taking down Quintanilla to force overtime.
Larson released his opponent, but he couldn’t get the late takedown he needed, and Quintanilla held on for an 8-6 victory.
Despite the loss, Nickels beamed with pride with regard to Larson’s performance in the final match of his high-school career at Mat Classic XXV in the Tacoma Dome.
“I just let him know how proud we are of what he has done and what he has meant to the program,” Nickels said. “From the get-go, he has done everything right. Once the sting of that loss wears off, he’ll be proud of this, too.”
Nickels said Larson was disappointed with finishing in fourth place at state last season, and he vowed to make it to the state finals.
“Casey set that goal last year,” Nickels said. “I know he was frustrated with it not working out last year and getting that fourth place. We were happy with that, but he wasn’t going to be happy with that this year. It is truly exciting to see him have the opportunity to compete in the finals.”
Larson, who finished eighth at state as a sophomore, said he will wrestle at the collegiate level at either Southern Oregon University or Grand Canyon University in Arizona.
He also said he will reflect fondly on his high-school career.
“All of the workouts I did with my teammates and the memories we made together will be something I’ll always remember,” he said.
The last Peninsula wrestler to win a state title was Jake Friedman, who captured the 160-pound crown in 2005, the second of his back-to-back championships.
Peninsula senior 138-pounder Randy Nimrick lost in the semifinals, but he battled back to earn third place with a pin against Mountain View’s Kenji Yamashita. Nimrick finished fourth at state as a junior.
“It is always heartbreaking when you have that realistic goal of getting that championship, and you fall short of it,” Nickels said of Nimrick.
“A true judge of character is how you bounce back from that. Randy did (after losing in the semifinals). It wasn’t an easy road, but he came back and got that third place. It was exciting to watch. He is proud of that third place.”
Even though he didn’t place, 132-pounder Ryan Valley made his mark at Mat Classic. Nickels was proud to see Valley experience the environment in his senior year.
“Ryan lost his first one but came out and got that second one,” Nickels said. “Winning a match here was a big goal of his.
“I have always felt that Ryan is one of the most technical wrestlers in the room,” he added. “If (advancing to Mat Classic) didn’t happen for him this year, I would have told you he would have been the best wrestler I have ever seen not make it to state. I’m ecstatic he got here and got that win under his belt.”
Valley overcame a recurring back injury that bothered him for much of his final two seasons.
“It made me work harder,” Valley said of the injury. “This was my senior year, and I couldn’t stop. I just kept going.”
Peninsula’s success from the 132- through 152-pound weight classes was evident. The Seahawks had athletes in each of the five divisions, and Nickels said the logjam of wrestlers creates unique opportunities and challenges for his team.
“It is a double-edged sword; it is great to have guys in the room that can pound on each other and make each other better,” Nickels said. “Obviously, we would like to spread that out a little better as well and get those numbers — there is no question.
“You can see how it helps us. A few of our guys today were using the Randy Nimrick half-nelson in their matches. That just comes from watching it in practice and having it done to them and by them every day.”
Peninsula senior Jake Ricco, who made his second state appearance, captured seventh place at 145 pounds. And sophomore Luke Holsinger, a first-timer at the event, placed fifth at 170 pounds.
The Seahawks had a resounding finish to a good season, scoring 69 points to take sixth in the 3A team standings. University of Spokane (142.5) won the championship, while Decatur (138.5), Sunnyside (130.5) and Enumclaw (92) also earned trophies.
Elizabeth Schwendeman and Mackenzie Schwendeman were Gig Harbor High’s only representatives at the Tacoma Dome, and the sisters earned medals following their first appearances at state.
At 112 pounds, Mackenzie placed seventh. In the first round, she pinned Taryn Lommasson of Camas in 2 minutes, 51 seconds. In the quarterfinals, she stuck with Grandview’s Viannei Perez but lost a 5-3 decision.
Mackenzie, a junior, got into the medal round with an 8-6 decision over Friday Harbor’s Kaylen Meeker. She lost 11-7 to Napavine’s Cassie Edwards, then closed with a pin of Darrington’s Elesha Forrest in 2:48.
At 100 pounds, Elizabeth Schwendeman finished eighth. The freshman had to claw her way back from a first-round loss to Warden’s Deianeira Caudle, who pinned Schwendeman in 1:52.
In the consolation bracket, Elizabeth pinned Salina Kongsayasak of Franklin (2:18) and Mireille Powers of Kelso (1:56). She dropped a 7-3 decision to Prairie’s Quinn O’Bryant and was pinned in 4:44 by Central Kitsap’s Alison Johnson.