Peninsula’s Casey brothers solidified themselves as some of the best wrestlers in their state in their weight classes during last weekend’s Mat Classic XXX tournament at the Tacoma Dome.
Sophomore Nolan Casey took fourth in the 145-pound weight class, while Isaac Casey took fourth in 170.
Both brothers entered the second day with high expectations in the semifinals, one win away from the state finals. Nolan had an especially tall task, facing Stanwood’s Mason Phillips, one of the top wrestlers in the country.
So Nolan went on the offensive. It was, he figured, his best shot.
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“He was really good,” Nolan Casey said. “I knew it was going to be a pretty hard match, going into it. People told me how good he was. But all matches are the same. I just knew that if I was going to win it, I had to go for it.”
But for every chance Nolan Casey took, Phillips had a quick and decisive answer. He won by pin in the first round.
“He knew he was going against a buzzsaw,” said Peninsula coach Mark Nickels. “We told him to go out there and just wrestle and see what it feels like. You don’t get to wrestle a guy ranked fourth in the nation very often. It’s a good opportunity to feel what the difference is. He had an answer for everything we threw at him. He’s composed and he’s at another level. But you don’t ever get there if you don’t wrestle with him.”
Nickels said he was happy with how Nolan Casey attacked the situation, even though it didn’t result in a win.
“He was composed, he didn’t get too worked up about it,” Nickels said. “I think he went in there with the right attitude of what he was going to do. He was going to go out there and wrestle. He was going to try to take a shot, which he did. He initiated offense. He didn’t shy away from it. He had the heart from it. That’s encouraging. We know there’s a gap, but he’s also a sophomore, too. So we’ve got some time. He’s only going to get better.”
Phillips went on to win the state title. Nolan Casey bounced back in the next match, beating Mount Spokane’s Zack Clark, before falling to Kamiakin’s Joey Chavez to settle for fourth place.
Isaac Casey faced O’Dea’s Alan Bradley in the semifinals, and didn’t have much luck generating any attack. Casey went down 10-0 on points before Bradley earned a pin in the second round.
“I’m mad at myself,” Isaac Casey said after the match. “It wasn’t my best match.”
Nickels was left wondering if Isaac Casey tried to play it a bit too safe.
“We talked about generating an offense,” Nickels said. “Isaac frustrates other wrestlers because he’s defensively pretty strong. But his defense sometimes shuts down his own offense. What I would’ve like to see is him meeting the attack a little more with his head and hand position, standing tall.”
Casey bounced back with a win over Kelso’s Ben Bergonzine, before falling to Evergreen’s Dylan Goodpaster, taking fourth place overall. In total, Peninsula had five wrestlers compete in the state tournament: The Casey brothers, Nathan Johnson, Brock Allen and Max Goins.
“It was fantastic,” Nickels said. “Five was a good number for us. We left a couple kids at home that I think would’ve been able to wrestle. But I think it was about right.”