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Gig Harbor wrestlers Ball, Bittinger place at Mat Classic XXIX

Gig Harbor’s Zayne Ball tries to escape during a match against Kamiakin’s Sione Halo during Mat Classic XXIX at the Tacoma Dome.
Gig Harbor’s Zayne Ball tries to escape during a match against Kamiakin’s Sione Halo during Mat Classic XXIX at the Tacoma Dome. jbessex@gateline.com

Gig Harbor High sent two wrestlers to the Class 3A Mat Classic XXIX state meet over the weekend at the Tacoma Dome, and both ended the weekend on the podium.

Sophomore Zayne Ball placed sixth in the 160-pound weight class, while junior John Bittinger took seventh in 152.

“I’d say it was pretty good,” Ball said of his performance. “I made it to state, which is better than last year. So I’m happy and just want to keep improving.”

Ball, only a sophomore, has a chance to be a legitimate threat in his final two years of high school. Ball fell to Kelso’s John Stuart in the final match to finish sixth.

It gives me more confidence knowing that in two years, when I’m a senior, I’ll just have a lot more experience under my belt.

Zayne Ball, Gig Harbor sophomore wrestler

“It gives me more confidence knowing that in two years, when I’m a senior, I’ll just have a lot more experience under my belt,” he said. “Knowing I have the experience, I’ve been under the Dome and I don’t get afraid of the lights.”

First-year coach Jacob Spadoni was pleased by what he saw from Ball during the state meet and throughout the season.

“He had an awesome tournament,” Spadoni said. “I can’t be happier for him. He put an amazing effort in during the whole tournament.”

Given Ball’s wrestling prowess on the mat, Spadoni admits he sometimes forgets he’s only a sophomore.

“He’s very mature, responsible and very good at wrestling,” Spadoni said.

Bittinger was hoping to finish in the top three in this year’s state tournament and said he was disappointed to settle for seventh.

Next year, I know I’m going to do better. I’m just going to keep up the faith and thank God every day.

John Bittinger, Gig Harbor junior wrestler

“It’s not what I came for,” Bittinger said. “But next year, I know I’m going to do better. I’m just going to keep up the faith and thank God every day.”

Bittinger ended the weekend on a high note, beating Kamiakin’s Cyle Deleon in a closely contested 5-4 decision. Bittinger won a late takedown in the third and final round to earn the win.

“Coach has always been saying, ‘Dig deep,’” Bittinger said. “So that’s what I did. I just committed and did what I had to do. I ended up doing better than last year. I was more confident. I trusted myself. I trusted the people who trained me, who helped me and just got better.”

And now, Gig Harbor has two returning state placers to try to build the program up around next season in Ball and Bittinger.

“Having two guys come back, especially the quality they are, we build the program around those kind of guys,” Spadoni said. “Guys that maybe by themselves, wouldn’t be a state-caliber kid, those kids push the room and elevate the whole room. It’s great to have those kids as leaders. It’s great to have those kids to bring other kids along.”

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