Adam Benson walks onto the wrestling mat with only one thought.
A state championship.
“It’s all I think about,” said Timberline High School’s 170-pounder after winning the 3A South Sound Conference title with an 11-3 victory over Yelm’s Tyler Losch on Saturday at North Thurston’s gym. “I’m a senior, this is my last chance.
“Last year I was pointed toward state all season, but I was really sick through the whole tournament,” said Benson, who is ranked seventh in 3A in his weight class.
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Losch, ranked sixth, provided a strong test as the postseason got underway.
Benson beat Losch early in the season, but lost a rematch, 4-0, a week ago as Yelm rolled to a dual-meet win over the Blazers.
“I didn’t attack enough early enough,” Benson said. “This time I stayed on my feet and attacked the whole time.”
Benson’s aggression was on display throughout the tournament. Earlier, he earned a 17-2 technical fall over teammate Blake Doss and pinned Peninsula senior Drew Ramsey late in the second round.
Three other Blazers, Andrew Bartoldo (106), Parker Risk (132) and Ed Skill (138), claimed league titles, and nine will move on to next week’s regionals at Bonney Lake by virtue of a top-four finish Saturday.
Yelm’s overall depth carried the Tornados to a huge team victory. Yelm, with nine wrestlers reaching the finals, compiled 415 points to easily distance Peninsula, second with 231, and Timberline, third at 221.
“We started the tournament Friday with 27 guys entered and only lost one,” Yelm coach Gaylord Strand said. “So we had almost two full teams scoring points for us on Saturday.”
The Tornados dominated the lighter weights and the heavier ones: Gavin Stewart (113), Mason Harrison (120), Steven Reyes (126), Derrick Platt (182), Jeremy Smith (195) and Skylor Mottner (285) won individual titles. A total of 17 Yelm wrestlers advanced to regionals.
Strand was most impressed by Reyes’ victory. Ranked sixth in the state at 132, the sophomore dropped to 126 for the postseason and edged Peninsula’s Michael Campigotto, ranked 12th at 126, in the finals, 6-5.
“He (Reyes) showed a big improvement today. He didn’t get to state as a freshman, but he beat a three-time state placer today,” Strand said.
Reyes may have been the highlight, but four other Tornados, each ranked on the top 10 of his weight division in 3A statewide, turned in dominant performances.
Mottner, ranked fourth at 285, pinned each of his opponents within a minute and 12 seconds. Harrison, ranked fifth at 120, recorded two first-round pins before shutting out Peninsula’s Riley Wynn, 2-0, in the final. Smith, ranked fifth at 195, pinned each of his three foes. Stewart, ranked ninth at 113, recorded pins in both of his matches.
Skill, ranked 10th at 138 for Timberline, won a final between ranked wrestlers. After advancing to the finals with a pair of pins, Skill edged 13th-ranked Nolan Casey of Peninsula, 7-5.
Bartoldo, unranked at 106, scored an upset in the championship round when he pinned Yelm’s 14th-ranked Jayden Hallman in 44 seconds.
North Thurston’s 220-pound Kai Burgman, ranked 13th, pinned all three of his opponents in the first round. Six other Rams advanced to regionals, along with six Shelton wrestlers and one from Capital.
Despite Yelm’s big team performance, Strand knows the Tornados still have work to do.
“The regional meet is going to be a lot tougher,” he said. “Each of our guys needs to work on getting rid of the small mistakes, mostly mental, they’ve been making and keeping on doing the good stuff.”