Gig Harbor and Peninsula High School wrestlers made a splash in the middle bouts of the finals at the Class 3A WIAA regionals last Saturday, as each school captured two championships apiece inside the Gig Harbor High School gym.
It was a game of one-upmanship between Peninsula brothers Isaac and Nolan Casey, who tried to best one another on their way to their first regional championship.
First up was Nolan, the younger of the two, who faced 3A No. 10-ranked Gar Rodside of Bethel in the 145-pound finals. After a brief stalemate, Nolan (No. 8) was able to hit a few takedowns in the first two rounds before the Seahawks’ sophomore hit a final shot in the third to capture the title with a 6-1 decision.
“It’s always nice to make your older brother to have to step up,” said Nolan, who gave up a point on a free escape. “But it’s always nice to have your brother go with you to state.”
With the first regional title captured, it was up to Isaac Casey as he faced No. 9-ranked Jason Nelson of Yelm in the 170-pound finals. Isaac handled his opponent as the junior and No. 3-ranked wrestler at 170-pound captured his title with a clean 6-0 decision.
“I’m pretty excited because we worked hard the whole off-season to win here at Regionals,” Isaac Casey said. “But that’s not our main goal. Our main goal is to do this at state.”
Gig Harbor’s John Bittinger and Zayne Ball experienced different scares en route to capturing their regional titles.
In an early Mat Classic XXX preview, it was the No. 3-ranked Bittinger facing No. 4-ranked Cody Coffey of Bonney Lake, and the two didn’t disappoint in their 152-pound finals match that reached overtime.
After Coffey controlled the first round with a 2-0 lead, Bittinger was able to find a quick escape to start the second before scoring a takedown on a shot at 1:42, taking a 3-2 lead. After Coffey escaped, 3-3, both wrestlers failed to score a point in the third, forcing overtime.
“I kept the distance long, and we weren’t in contact very much,” Bittinger said. “So, that’s what I was looking for, was to stay close. I was trying to get that shot and get those points.”
The Tides’ senior was decisive in overtime as he hit Coffey with a shot and takedown that gave Bittinger a 5-3 victory and the championship.
“I had to remain focused,” Bittinger said. “(Now) it’s just keep working on my weaknesses and making sure those are sharp. Make sure my technique is perfect.”
After watching his teammate claim the first of the Gig Harbor individual titles, No. 5-ranked Zayne Ball squared off against No. 6 ranked Chayton Miller of Yelm in the 160-pound finals.
The match was fast and aggressive between the two as Ball nailed a takedown on a shot before he and Miller went through an exchanges of reverses on pinfall attempts, leading to a tie at the end of the first round, 4-4.
With the pressure mounting, Ball and Miller exchanged more reversals before Ball worked out an escape, 9-8, in the second. Moments later, Ball caught his opponent’s leg, exposing Miller and leaving the Tornado wrestler off-balance.
“Coming off of John’s match, I was hyped,” Ball said. “And who I was wrestling, I wrestled probably over a dozen times. It’s always close.”
Ball went for a takedown and with Miller off-balanced, both slammed awkwardly toward the floor with Ball driving his shoulder into Miller’s chest, leaving the Yelm junior in visible pain.
“When I got up, when a guy tries to get a leg-ride like that, it’s potentially dangerous. Usually they break, but this time he didn’t,” Ball said. “I didn’t have a lot of options, so I went back down with him and he hurt his back.”
Miller was able to finish the second round but had to forfeit the match to injury default in the third, giving Ball the championship.
The WIAA Mat Classic XXX starts Friday at the Tacoma Dome, with the state championship on Saturday.
Mat Classic XXX
When: 8:45 a.m. - 9:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
Where: Tacoma Dome, 2727 E. D St.
Tickets: All-day pass: $13 students and seniors, $17 adults; All-tournament pass: $23 students and seniors, $30 adults. Buy at the door or online at tacomadome.org/mat-classic.
Parking: $15 in Tacoma Dome lots.
Competition schedule: wiaa.com.