Peninsula High School sent an impressive eight wrestlers to this year’s Mat Classic XXIX Class 3A state meet at the Tacoma Dome. When it was all said and done Saturday night, after two days of hard-fought wrestling, four Seahawks ended up on the podium.
Senior Michael Campigotto placed third in the 126-pound weight class; senior Seth Wahto took third in 145; freshman Brock Allen took eighth in 106 and senior Roger Kaffer took eighth in 182.
“I’m happy for them,” said Peninsula coach Mark Nickels. “We talk about, every tournament we go into, don’t put too much weight into this tournament. That’s always happened. Kids just wrestled well. We know what your best positions are — find yourself there.”
Wahto faced perhaps the toughest challenge of anyone at the tournament in the semifinals, facing Standwood’s Mason Phillips, who won by technical fall and went on to win a state title rather easily. Phillips, a junior, has a good chance of finding himself on Team USA’s 2020 Olympic wrestling team. But after that semifinal matched put an end to Wahto’s state-title aspirations, he kept everything in perspective.
“It’s my last tournament, so I just wanted to have fun with it,” Wahto said. “I put that as a priority in my wrestling. You can’t be serious all the time.”
That approach, Wahto said, has helped shape him as an individual.
It’s given me more confidence in myself. I used to be really shy and not outgoing. Wrestling has really changed me.
Seth Wahto, Peninsula senior wrestler
“It’s given me more confidence in myself,” Wahto said. “I used to be really shy and not outgoing. Wrestling has really changed me.”
His lighthearted approach to the sport also helped him bounce back quickly in his next two matches. Wahto went on to beat Kamiakin’s Liam Walker, 7-6, and Redmond’s Jeremy Hernandez, 8-3, to take third place.
“It feels great,” Wahto said. “I’ve been trying to place at state all four years. Finally wrapping up high school career, I finished where I wanted to.”
Nickels said he always knew Wahto had it in him to place at state.
“I’ve always known he’s a really capable wrestler,” Nickels said. “It was just a matter of opportunity, his confidence and timing. All year, I think he’s been overlooked. I don’t know if anyone has really been talking about Seth. But he’s just a solid kid. It was good to see him be able to reach what we know he’s capable of doing.”
After losing in the semis at 126, Campigotto bounced back with wins over North Central’s Kadin Shaw and Lincoln’s Jermias Sandoval to take third.
“I knew I could wrestle anyone here and wrestle at a high level, and when I need to, dig deep and get that one,” Campigotto said.
Campigotto becomes Peninsula High School’s first four-time state placer. But if Allen, the freshman, has anything to say about it, he could be the next.
The 106-pounder found himself on the podium in his first-ever Mat Classic, taking eighth with a win over Squalicum’s Brayden Charette, who beat Allen in the opening round of the state meet just a day earlier.
It’s an achievement to be able to start off a good high school career, so that feels good. It’s a lot of hard work and offseason training. My coaches and team really encouraged me all day.
Brock Allen, Peninsula freshman wrestler
“It’s an achievement to be able to start off a good high school career, so that feels good,” Allen said. “It’s a lot of hard work and offseason training. My coaches and team really encouraged me all day.”
Allen hopes he can come back and do it again next year — perhaps even work his way up the podium.
“I think next year I’m going to come back and try to place a little higher,” Allen said. “There’s some things I can get better at. That just comes with experience.”
Kaffer was the final Peninsula placer, taking eighth place in the 182-pound weight class with a win over Oak Harbor’s Nick Dugin.
“I think I improved a lot,” Kaffer said. “I think harder competition makes me better. I feel like I’ve gotten a lot stronger mentally, and physically. That’s what it’s all about. That’s what I joined wrestling for.”