Grays Harbor Roundup: Chokers wrestling claims fourth straight conference title

The Grays Harbor College wrestling team continued its dominance in the National Collegiate Wrestling Association’s Northwest Conference on Saturday, winning its fourth-consecutive team title after a stellar performance at the Sam Benn Gymnasium.

Grays Harbor, which entered Saturday’s NCWA Northwest Conference Championship ranked No. 7 in the nation, secured the team title with six individual titles and four second-place finishes as the Chokers sent 10 wrestlers to the final match out of 11 weight classes.

Grays Harbor scored 195 points, besting second-place Big Bend Community College (122 points) and Washington State University, which placed third with 97.5 points.

“We keep on getting better every year,” Grays Harbor head coach Phillip Pine said after his team secured its fourth title of the program’s four-year history. “There’s still lots of room for improvement. We had four guys lose in the finals, two I wasn’t expecting, but we’ll work on it and get better. The thing we gear for all season is postseason and nationals. That’s how we grade our success for the season.”

The Chokers were led by its six conference champions on Saturday.

David Campbell got Grays Harbor off to a good start in the final round with a pinfall win over Washington State’s David Woo at 4:55 in the 125-pound final.

Kimani-Samuel Johnson followed that performance with a victory over Central Washington’s Kevin Klein (fall, 4:53) in the 157-pound title match.

Grays Harbor’s Matthew Alejandro earned a pinfall victory over Western Washington’s Milo Holston to take the 174-pound title, which was followed by the Chokers’ Ryan Olivas earning a pinfall victory over Pacific Lutheran’s Cole Tucker for the 194-pound championship.

Octavio Alejandre gave Grays Harbor its fifth individual title of the tournament, stopping PLU’s Travis Mitchell with a pin at 4:07 in the 235-pound final.

The evening was capped by Grays Harbor’s Mervyn Penniston-John Jr., who defeated former Montesano High School two-time state champion, Pacific Lutheran’s Charles “Taylor” Rupe, via pinfall at 4:29.

“Most of our guys are doing pretty good right now,” Pine said. “Our conditioning is good. We’re probably going to go hard for three to four days (this) week and then just taper off and go really light before nationals.”

Pine was also impressed with some of his wrestlers that didn’t stand on the top spot on the podium.

“Kyle Ignacio, who took second at 184, he wrestled well. And Victory Tafoya, who came in the season at 189 pounds, wrestled at 149 today. He was undersized all season, … but he’s finally down in weight and he’s much more competitive now. … And Darrien Walters, who dropped down a weight after we lost a real good kid due to an injury a couple weeks ago, decided to drop down a weight class to fill that spot and made it to the final.”

A total of 15 Grays Harbor wrestlers placed in the top five of their respective weight class, qualifying them for the NCWA National Wrestling Championships, which is scheduled for March 14-16 at the Allen Event Center in Allen, Texas.

When asked the secret to the program’s immense success so early in its history, Pine provided a definitive answer.

“Recruiting,” he said. “Bringing the right kids in. They’ve been coachable and its just about bringing the right kids in.”

Grays Harbor wrestlers that qualified for the national tournament are as follows (top five in each weight class advance):

125 pounds — 1. David Campbell

133 — 3. Chandler Rosalin

149 — 2. James Bell, 5. Victor Tafoya

157 — 1. Kimani-Samuel Johnson, 5. Fletcher Andrews

165 — 2. Darrien Walters

184 — 2. Kyle Ignacio, 3. Alexander Jordan

197 — 1. Ryan Olivas

235 — 1. Octavio Alejandre, 4. Josh Felder

285 — 1. Mervyn Penniston-John Jr.

Team Scores

1. Grays Harbor 195.0; 2. Big Bend CC 122.0; 3. Washington State 97.5; 4. Pacific Lutheran 87.5; 5. Montana Tech 61.5; 6. Western Washington 43.5; 7. Central Washington 37.0; 8. Treasure Valley CC 18.0.

WOMEN’S COLLEGE BASKETBALL

Grays Harbor 88, Green River 58

The Grays Harbor Chokers finished in second place in the NWAC Western Conference after earning an 88-58 victory over winless Green River on Saturday at Grays Harbor College.

Charleea Armstrong scored 20 points to lead Grays Harbor (15-11 overall, 9-5 NWAC West), which won its third straight game to close out the regular season.

Sandin Kidder appears to have recovered from a previous injury, scoring 19 points for Grays Harbor in the victory.

Keeley Teel scored 14 points and Armonnie Byrd led the Chokers with 14 rebounds.

Though the late-season win streak is a welcome sign for Grays Harbor, head coach Chad Allen felt his team could have performed better against a fatigued Green River team that is 0-22 on the season.

“The game was very uninspiring due to Green River having to play three games in the last four days,” he said. “Green River worked hard, but our team could not find the energy and focus we normally have. Youth still allows themselves to play down to our opponents.

“Everyone scored and bench got good minutes, so we had opportunities to grow. It’s still a work in progress, but we will get five days to prepare for the next opponent.”

Green River 9 16 17 16 — 58

Grays Harbor 18 24 18 28 — 88

Top Players: Grays Harbor — Armstrong (20 pts., 6 reb., 3 asst.), Kidder (19 pts., 7 reb., 3 asst.), Teel (14 pts, 5 reb., 2 asst.), Byrd (5 pts, 14 reb). Green River — Florence Johnson (17 pts.), Kaylin Fietz (16 pts.), Mari Lilly (14 pts.).