TACOMA — It wasn’t always the storybook ending they had imagined, but three Grays Harbor wrestlers ended their high school careers on top of the podium as state champions at the Mat Classic on Saturday.
Montesano’s Austin Cain (160), Taylor Rupe (285) and North Beach’s Seth Bridge (285) ended their senior wrestling seasons with state titles at the Tacoma Dome.
After becoming the first Montesano wrestler to win a title in forty years when he captured the 152-pound crown at the 1A tournament last year, Cain became the first Bulldog to win back-to-back titles with a victory in the 160-pound final Saturday. Cain won an 8-3 decision over Colville’s Thailer Morrison in the final with the least controversy of the trio of champions.
Cain controlled the match against Morrison from the first whistle. The senior snapped Morrison down and moved around quickly for a takedown just under a minute into the match. However, Cain struggled to work on top of the taller Morrison and allowed an escape just before the end of the first period. Cain earned a reversal to start the second and led 6-2 going into the third period. While Morrison escaped quick to begin the third, Cain got another takedown moments later and rode out the final minute and a half.
“He was hard to ride considering he was a lot lengthier,” Cain said. “We had a plan of attack from watching video and doing our scouting. He had a dangerous head-and-arm move from his feet so we just wanted to stay away from that. We just decided to lay low and play it safe. The first (back-to-back champion) in the school, that is history that is going to help bring up the little kids and make them set the bar high so it means a lot.”
After the two somersaults on the mat to celebrate each title and before he was handed a can of Mountain Dew Voltage to enjoy for each title, Cain shared a moment with his father, Montesano assistant coach Darold Cain. The two embraced with Austin picking Darold up off the ground.
“It is probably the best father-son moment one could ask for,” Austin Cain said. “It is just one of the best memories for sure.”
Around three hours later, Rupe became the second back-to-back champion Bulldog and only the fifth Montesano wrestler to place at state four straight years when he was awarded the 285-pound 1A title. Rupe received a forfeit by Connell’s Alexander Deines when the Monte senior suffered a concussion.
Rupe and Deines were locked in a scoreless tie after one period. Rupe chose down to start the second and was able to escape during a scramble. The senior ended up almost out of the circle when he stood up. As Rupe got up, Deines rushed at Rupe with his arms extended. Deines shoved Rupe around the shoulders and his head made contact close to Rupe’s neck. The momentum caused Rupe to fly off the mat and into a scoreboard with his head hitting the concrete floor of the Tacoma Dome.
“I’ve never seen anything like this,” Montesano coach Jeff Klinger said. “I knew right away that he was concussed. We put him through the protocol and the doctor came over and said ‘he’s done.’”
The referee ruled Deines was thrown out of the match for his conduct, but, after conferencing with the second referee, decided to just award an unsportsmanlike point. Rupe had two minutes to try and recover, but the medical staff ruled he was unable to continue.
“Taylor did not want it to end that way,” Klinger said. “He was trying to get back up and he was falling back into the chair.”
With two title winners, Montesano finished fifth as a team with 105 1/2 points, just a half point over Forks. Granger won the state team title with 198 points.
Bridge’s title bout ended with an injury as well. Toledo’s Dalton Yoder defaulted the 1B/2B 285-pound final to Bridge after Yoder’s knee was injured.
Yoder entered the match a heavy favorite, having beaten Bridge earlier in the season. However, Bridge battled through the first period tied 0-0. In the second period, Yoder was leading 1-0 when he tied up with Bridge. The Hyak grappler reached to take control of Yoder’s leg and when he pulled a loud pop sound was followed by Yoder’s screams and cries of knee pain. Yoder tried to continue the match and battled for about forty more seconds, but, after a reversal by Bridge, he eventually conceded the bout.
“I wish I could have won by points, but I’m very glad that I won,” Bridge said. “I can’t believe it yet, it hasn’t sunk in. I’ll figure it out tomorrow. A lot of (my success this weekend) was going back to what I knew. Back to the basics of what I did well. Coach (Mike) Weidman was there talking me through strategy every single match. (The strategy) was wrestle in bursts of six seconds and go for the single leg, just wrestle my heart out.”
Both Bridge and Cain came up with pins to earn their way into the finals, Bridge beat Inchelium’s Cody Perryman in 3:01 and Cain pinned Stevenson’s Jesse Hoffberger in 1:23, while Rupe dominated Kiona-Benton’s Anthony Llernas 11-4 for a semifinal win.