TACOMA — One day down at the Mat Classic, and Eastmont and Wenatchee still have plenty of tournament time left to go.
Each school sent a wrestler into Saturday’s semifinals at the Tacoma Dome — Wenatchee’s Kyle Lesmeister (220 pounds) and Eastmont’s Fabian Wickham (106) both went 2-0 on Friday — and there are three grapplers between the two programs still working their way through the consolation bracket.
Wickham put on the type of composed, commanding wrestling you would expect from a returning state placer.
He won both of his matches handedly Friday, allowing his opponents two total points (one in each match). He will wrestle Lake Stevens’ Michael Soler on Saturday.
There were no nerves and no emotional outburst of joy afterward. The senior standout, in his third appearance at the Tacoma Dome, is accustomed to the chaotic atmosphere and seemed unfazed after locking up his second victory of the day. He knows there’s still a lot of work left to do on the mat.
“The next two wins are important,” he said. “But you can’t go in trying to win. You just have to go wrestle. … That’s what’s gotten me this far.”
After his second match of the day, a dominating 6-1 win over Malik Messiah of Todd Beamer, Wickham was already mapping out the basics for a successful finish — staying healthy and making weight for Saturday.
Less experienced grapplers might get anxious or antsy thinking about the semifinals.
“Look around,” he said. “Any new wrestler would be nervous.”
But for Wickham, it’s just a matter of keeping a level head and honing in on the next match.
And while Wickham was polished from start to finish, teammates Darin Hardgrove (170) and Kyle Hoffman (195) showed plenty of grit after losing in the first round.
Hoffman won back-to-back matches in the consolation bracket and scored a takedown with less than 30 seconds in the final period of his third match of the day to take snag a 4-1 win by decision.
The senior was relieved to wrap up the opening day with a hard-fought win and has prepared himself for what’s to come Saturday.
“In a way, I’ve been here in my mind,” he said. “You just have to step up to the line and go wrestle.”
Hardgrove, also a senior, dominated in his final contest of the day with a 9-3 victory and will continue to work toward a third-place finish.
Coach Ken Hoyt wasn’t particularly pleased with his wrestlers after he saw all but Wickham fall in the opening round, but praised the mental fortitude and physical conditioning of Hardgrove and Hoffman after their gritty late-afternoon performances.
“They both came awake after they lost their first matches,” he said. “Especially Hardgrove. He’s got some confidence in his shot right now.”
Christian Hernandez (132) and Camden Wheatcroft (152) weren’t able to rebound after losing in the first round, but it wasn’t because of a shortage of effort, Hoyt said.
Hernandez and Wheatcroft, both seniors, each lost 8-2 in the consolation bracket.
Hoyt was especially proud of the way Wheatcroft finished, despite coming up short.
“Cam did everything possible to win his match and that’s how you’re supposed to wrestle,” he said. “Win, lose, or draw.”
There was no shortage of last-second dramatics for the Panthers on Friday.
Lesmeister executed an escape as time expired in the third period of his second match Friday and narrowly escaped with a 3-1 win over Puyallup’s Matt Lockey to advance to the semifinals.
Afterward, the senior grappler admitted it wasn’t his best performance, but it counts as a win and Lesmeister never lost his composure.
“We practice situations like that in the wrestling room every day,” he said, “so it’s kind of normal.”
Lesmeister’s victory keeps his hunt for a state championship alive, but Alberto Montes DeOca’s last-second win was packed with drama.
Montes DeOca (126), who won two in a row in the consolation bracket after losing in the first round, trailed 3-1 late in the third period against Moses Lake’s Brad Fox, a place he’d been before. Fox got the better of him twice in two weeks leading up to state — at districts and again at regionals — but Montes DeOca wasn’t deterred.
He flipped his opponent on his back just inches from the edge of the inbounds circle and held on to score a near fall and a 4-3 victory.
“It feels great,” he said, adding that the payback element made the match that much better. “Four years of hard work have paid off.”
Coach Ed Valdez was elated as well. Valdez has seen Montes DeOca battle injuries over the course of his career and praised the senior for his ability to fight through the pain.
“He’s got an ankle injury, but I don’t think it’s bothering him right now,” Valdez said. “He’s used to being injured. He’s doing a fantastic job.”
The remaining Wenatchee wrestlers gave it a shot, but couldn’t do enough to earn a return to the mat for Saturday.
Senior Ryan Osterlund (285) won by pin in the opening round, but encountered a couple of roadblocks later in the day.
He lost 12-4 in his second match and again 9-3 in the consolation bracket while attempting to score a takedown late in the final period.
Senior Ignacio Molinero (285) suffered a close 5-4 defeat in the opening round of action and couldn’t rebound from the setback and got pinned in the consolation bracket.
Junior Kris Garrett (138) finished the day 1-2, picking up a 7-2 victory in the consolation bracket after losing earlier in the day. Garrett’s final match was a 7-4 loss.
Valdez, who marveled at Garrett’s incredible improvement, will be excited to have a determined Garrett back for next year, though.
“Now he knows what it feels like,” Valdez said. “Now he feels the pain of what it’s like to get here and not get on the podium.”
The Jackrabbits had an incredible opening day, although their 51 team points probably won’t be enough to catch Granger, which leads all 1A teams with 67 team points.
They have six of the eight wrestlers they sent to state competing Saturday, and five of them went 2-0 Friday to clinch a spot in the semifinals.
Christian Alejandrez (106), Victor Salgado (106), Gabe Martinez (113), Isias Jiminez (145), Carter Bushman (152) and Antonio Melendez (160) all went perfect on the day, and Jason Guzman (285) won in the consolation bracket and will have a shot at third place Saturday.
“The kids have been working really hard and doing some things that have gone unnoticed,” coach Greg Martinez said. “To come out and perform on this stage is huge.”
Still in the hunt
Brandon Medina (113) of Brewster, Erick Garcia (132) and Asa Schwartz (220) of Chelan all advanced to the semifinals.
Meanwhile, Okanogan’s Tony Klepec (113), Cashmere’s Ethan Visser (132) and Jacob James (138), Omak’s Alexander Aguilar (138), Sammy Trudeaux (152) Cody Harvill (170) and Jacob Cutrell (195) and Chelan’s Bobby Anderson (170) and Luis Garcia (285) all went 2-1 are still alive in their respective consolation brackets.
Ephrata’s Tyrus Kemp (195) will compete in the semifinals Saturday, while Tevin Hiatt (170) won back-to-back matches in the consolation bracket and will continue to wrestle for third place.
Brewster’s Janet Carrillyo (170) and Quincy’s Cynthia Ramirez (106) will compete in the semifinals, and Quincy’s Vivian Bazan (155) can still secure a third-place finish.
Brewster’s Nykia Mariscal (190) was eliminated.