High School Sports

New format could mean greater suspense in close Mat Classic team chases

Aizayah Yacapin of Curtis brings down Robby Vaughn of Chiawana in their 106-pound match on day one of the WIAA Mat Classic state wrestling tournament in the Tacoma Dome, February 17, 2017. Yacapin lost.
Aizayah Yacapin of Curtis brings down Robby Vaughn of Chiawana in their 106-pound match on day one of the WIAA Mat Classic state wrestling tournament in the Tacoma Dome, February 17, 2017. Yacapin lost. phaley@thenewstribune.com

For Mat Classic XXIX this weekend, tournament officials threw a suplex move on the entire state of Washington.

They changed championship Saturday.

So bring a calculator.

And it all very well could provide even more drama than in past WIAA state wrestling tournaments in the Tacoma Dome.

Championship finalists will still have their day in the sun, but they will wrestle directly after all the other medal-round matches are completed in each weight class — not hours after, as in years past.

And for those schools in the team-championship chase — trying to keep tabs on all the points coming and going in the final hours — it could increase the suspense in finding out who wins, and who gets bumped out.

“I think it will make it more exciting,” Tahoma coach Chris Feist said. “There’s a lot of points to be had in that last round, whereas before you’d go into the finals, and a lot of times, those top four (teams) would be pretty much figured out.

“It will be fun. It will be interesting.”

That’s for sure.

As expected, the Class 4A competition looks to be a two-horse race between favorite Tahoma (77 points) and Curtis (72). The Bears advanced six wrestlers to the semifinals; Curtis has five.

What was not expected was the tournament Kelso is having in 3A. The Hilanders boast seven finalists, and appear to have overtaken favorite Bonney Lake as the team to beat Saturday.

The 2A race is a jumbled mess between defending state champion Toppenish and Orting. The Cardinals nudged ahead late Friday, 73 ½-70, but the Wildcats have more semifinalists (six to Orting’s four).

All seven of The News Tribune’s “Untouchables” — Bonney Lake’s Brandon Kaylor, Stanwood’s Mason Phillips, North Central’s Clai Quintanilla, Battle Ground’s James Rogers and Lakeside of Nine Mile Falls’ Dalton Young on the boys side, and Davis’ Cameron Guerin and Mount Vernon’s Brenda Reyna on the girls side — are through to the state semifinals.

Young is trying to become the first wrestler to go undefeated for a four-year career while winning four Mat Classic titles. He scored pins in both matches, needing just more than four minutes combined to advance in the Class 1A 138 bracket.

“This is the most focused we’ve ever seen him here,” Lakeside of Nine Mile Falls coach Brad Perry said. “He doesn’t want to spend any more time on the mat than he has to.”

If Tahoma somehow surges past the Vikings to win its first 4A title since 2012, it can go back to the first hour of the Friday afternoon action as a key swing.

In the 106 quarterfinals, favored Aizayah Yacapin — arguably Curtis’ top wrestler as a ninth-grader — was upset by Chiawana’s Robby Vaughn, 5-3.

Yacapin gave up the decisive takedown with 1:25 to go, and Vaughn fended off a furious challenge by the Vikings’ standout.

“I wrestled him in the summer, and he kept taking me down,” Vaughn said. “I knew ever since then what I needed to do, because he is so explosive. I had to stay inside him, and not let him get outside of me.”

And a half-hour later, Nick Whitehead, who is one of Tahoma’s best wrestlers, battled Moses Lake’s Nick Hara in the 132 quarterfinals. Both were state finalists a year ago.

After trailing for much of the match, Whitehead grabbed a 7-6 lead with five seconds remaining on a reversal.

But quickly, Hara wiggled out of the hold, and flipped positioning right at the buzzer.

“I got greedy,” Whitehead said. “I tried to put him on his back.”

Moses Lake coaches vehemently argued for a reversal, which would have given Hara a stunning victory. Instead, the match referee awarded an escape, which sent it into overtime, tied at 7-7.

In the first extra period, Whitehead scored the clinching takedown with five seconds to go.

“It does feel like (things are going our way),” Whitehead said. “We know what we need — bonus points and to win the close matches.”

Bonney Lake has been ranked No. 1 all season and is having a solid tournament, advancing six Panthers to the semifinals.

Thing is, Kelso has done the Panthers one better. The two schools face off in three semifinals matches Saturday morning — at 106, 113 and 220.

“We need some help from other teams to knock them off in semifinals matches,” Bonney Lake coach Dan Pitsch said. “And if we can sweep those three (head-to-head matches), it will put us in a pretty good position.”