Gateway: Sports

Regionals nixed, Mat Classic brackets expand to 32. What does it mean for Peninsula, Gig Harbor?

Peninsula’s Isaac Casey, top, wrestles O’Dea’s Alan Bradley in the Mat Classic state tournament at the Tacoma Dome.
Peninsula’s Isaac Casey, top, wrestles O’Dea’s Alan Bradley in the Mat Classic state tournament at the Tacoma Dome. Staff writer

The recent snow in the region has caused all sorts of headaches for high school athletics, forcing cancellations and still ongoing postseason rescheduling.

The inclement weather forced the cancellation of the state’s regional wrestling tournaments, meaning the Mat Classic state tournament will be expanded to a 32-man bracket, as opposed to the normal 16-man bracket.

To Peninsula coach Mark Nickels, the change to a 32-person bracket is actually welcome.

“It’s something we’ve been advocating for for about 15 years,” he said.

While Nickels said he had some concerns about the seeding criteria, the expanded field seems more fair.

“It’s been the sticking point of a lot of inequity for years,” Nickels said. “Which regions are tougher? There are a lot of kids who are being left out of the state tournament who might advance pretty far. This eliminates that, going to 32. Now those kids who might have been eliminated in their region will have a chance to wrestle.”

To accommodate the increase in participants at this year’s Mat Classic, day one on Friday will get started early for Class 3A, with matches beginning at 8:30 a.m.

Peninsula has plenty of wrestlers now who will have a shot to participate in the state tournament. They are: Jadon Chitta (106), Nathan Noorlander (106), Landon Pate (113), Brock Allen (120), Sam Smith (132), Nathan Johnson (145), Nolan Casey (152), Isaac Casey (160), Kenneh Roberts (160), Luke Golden (170), RJ Garlick (195) and Jacob Givens (heavyweight).

For Gig Harbor High, those headed to Mat Classic are: Trevor Zeitner (152), Stone Anderson (160), Zayne Ball (170), Jake Flynn (195), Alex Gettle (220) and William Christman (285).

While bigger brackets mean more participants, it also means the road to a state title, or a podium placing, becomes a much more difficult task.

“Shouldn’t it be a tougher path, though?” Nickels said.

Of course, those involved are still crossing their fingers that more bad weather doesn’t force the cancellation of the event, entirely. With multiple snow days in the past week, it also means that practices have been canceled. That, more than anything, is concerning to Nickels.

“The conditioning has a tendency to diminish quickly,” Nickels said. “If you take a week off, you’re going to notice it. …

“We’re at a point where, I’m not giving any new instruction to kids. We’re really just trying to make sure they have a plan for when they’re wrestling. … That’s how we usually approach this last week, get in, get a good sweat, push each other around for an hour or so. In terms of time, it’s not a lot. We just need that direct contact with each other. You can fatigue out if you’re not used to moving bodies around.”

Jon Manley covers high school sports for The Peninsula Gateway and The News Tribune. A McClatchy President’s Award winner, Manley has covered the Gig Harbor sports scene since 2013. Born and raised in Tacoma.