Fielding the largest team in the NCWA Northwest, Grays Harbor College used its strength at the top of the brackets and depth throughout the entire field to showcase itself at Sam Benn Gym on Saturday.
The Chokers finished with seven champions and a large grouping of NCWA Nationals qualifiers as they successfully defended their NWAC Northwest Conference championship title.
On March 9, GHC will begin the first day of the NCWA Nationals at Allen, Texas and have 18 wrestlers qualified after Saturday’s tournament.
“It was a really good day,” GHC assistant coach Jamie Webber said. “We performed really well today. It has been a pretty good season. We got a lot of support from the community and from the school today.”
The best finals of the day came at 165 pounds when James Jones, who was an assistant coach for the Aberdeen boys wrestling team this past season, took on Washington State’s Zack Volk.
Jones had a first-round bye and a third-round win by fall in the semifinals to get to Volk and took control from the on-set. After an early takedown and escape, Jones held a 2-1 lead after the first period. In the second, Jones picked up a two-point penalty for a 4-1 lead and kept Volk down for the entire period.
In the third, Jones scored a quick reversal at 6-1 and rode out the rest of the match for a 6-2 win.
“That’s the first time he’s beat that WSU kid,” Webber added. “He’s been wrestling strong all year. He didn’t get a chance to wrestle much last year due to injury. He had the best day out of everyone. That was a big win for him.”
At the same time as Jones’ match, two GHC teammates — Bryce Serna and Logan Sundheim — faced off in the 149 final. Serna scored a reversal in the third period to tie the match at 4-4 and both wrestled prepared for overtime. In the extra period, Serna worked Sundheim down for the takedown and the win, 6-4.
“Both of those guys had big semifinals wins,” Webber said. “Originally, we were concerned whether they would finished third or fourth and make it to regionals. But, they both wrestled really strong to get into the finals. They’ve been working really hard and they did a good job in a tough bracket. That was our biggest surprise for the day.”
Elma grad Brek McGaughy stepped up in the 235 final against Washington State’s Michael Huscusson. Both wrestlers fought to a draw in the first period and it nearly went two full periods without a point scored before Huscusson got an escape late for a 1-0 lead.
From the down position to start the third, McGaughy got onto the board with a reversal in the first 15 seconds of the period for a 2-1 lead. Then, McGaughy delivered a crossface to get into position and Huscusson went down holding his face. After an injury timeout, McGaughy was placed back into the down position. He quickly escaped for a 3-1 lead.
McGaughy would get one takedown in the final seconds to secure a 5-1 win and a conference title.
At 285, Joe Leal was set to take on teammate Tyler Burris in the final, but Leal earned a medical forfeit for the win.
Four of the weight divisions were turned into round-robin competitions due to a small number of wrestlers entered. GHC picked up three conference titles out of the four divisions.
At 125, three wrestlers — GHC’s Domenic Curulla and Aaron Blanchard and Montana Western’s Demetri Koures — all finished with 2-1, with wins by fall over each other. After the tiebreaker criteria was applied, Curulla, at 38 years old and a 1996 Washington state high school wrestling champion at Elma, was given the division’s title.
At 184, GHC’s Denzell Morrow went 3-0 to win the title and teammate Kaleb Hafner went 2-0 to win the 197 title.
Webber cited Josh Pine, who was upset in the semifinals, but returned to take third at 157, and McGaughy, who overcame the flu and a sudden loss of weight to win at 235.
On Sunday, Grays Harbor’s Darrien Walters (175) and Andres Smiley (157) were voted in by the conference coaches as wild-card entries to the NCWA Nationals.
NCWA Northwest Conference Tournament
At Sam Benn Gym, Aberdeen
Team: Grays Harbor College 190, Washington State 131, Montana Tech 90 1/2, Washington 82, Central Washington 42, Western Washington 28 1/2, Montana Western 23 1/2, Idaho 17 1/2, Montana State 9.
125 (RR) — T-1. Domenic Curulla (GHC), Demetri Koures (MWU) and Aaron Blanchard (GHC). 4. Emmett Kang (UW). 133 (RR) — 1. Hunter Haney (WSU). 2. Nathan Swanson-Dinsmore (WWU). 3. Christian Hill (GHC). 4. Kristopher Smith (GHC). 141 — 1. Tim Ellinger (MTU) dec. Robert Mendoza (WSU), 14-8. 3. Kegan Mulholland (WWU) dec. Brenten Goodwater (GHC), 10-8 (OT). 149 — 1. Bryce Serna (GHC) dec. Logan Sundheim (GHC), 6-4 (OT). 3. Jerdon Helgeson (WSU) pinned Thomas Hurz (WSU), 1:39. 157 — 1. Matt Yuste (CWU) dec. Cole Hill (MTU), 8-3. 3. Josh Pine (GHC) pinned Gavin Eaglin (UW), 1:51. 165 — 1. James Jones (GHC) dec. Zack Volk (WSU), 6-2. 3. Kyle McCullough (Idaho) maj. dec. Braiden Klimp (GHC), 12-3. 174 — Elijah Dittenber (MTU) dec. Thomas Skoog (UW), 8-6. 3. Jason Nicholson (WSU) pinned Victor McIntosh (CWU), 1:36. 184 (RR) — 1. Denzell Morrow (GHC). 2. Tucker Hanson (WSU). 3. Quincy Stormer (MTU). 4. Reald Markokaj (UW). 197 (RR) — 1. Kaleb Hafner (GHC). 2. Edgars Plorinsh (UW). 3. Gary Aube (GHC). 235 — 1. Brek McGaughy (GHC) dec. Michael Huscusson (WSU), 4-1. 3. Riley McDowell (MTU) medical forfeit over Max Lane (GHC). 285 — 1. Joe Leal (GHC) medical forfeit over Tyler Burris (GHC). 3. Jake Hobbes (MTU) dec. Trey Cox (CWU), 2-1.