Led by a state-championship performance from Montesano senior Mateo Sanchez, 12 Twin Harbors area prep wrestlers made the podium at the WIAA Mat Classic XXXIV state-wrestling championship tournament on Friday and Saturday at the Tacoma Dome.
Sanchez was the only Harbor wrestler to win a state title, rallying from down 4-0 to defeat Toppenish’s Kaiden Kintner 5-4 in the 1A class’ 182-pound final.
Sanchez, who lost by a point in overtime in last year’s state final, trailed 4-0 heading into the final two minutes of the match. After earning a point when Kintner was called for stalling for the second time, Sanchez got a reversal and put Kintner on his back to take a 5-4 lead in the final minute of the match, nearly earning a pinfall victory in the process.
Sanchez used his defense over the final 30 seconds to keep Kintner from scoring, earning Monte’s first state title since 2017 and his 100th win in the final match of his prep career.
“Mateo just kept going and kept going,” Montesano head coach Jeff Klinger said of Sanchez’s performance. “It was just so close to happening. We were thinking, ‘If he can just get away and get a takedown … and then Mateo hits a reversal and puts (Kintner) onto his back. … We were up one and had to ride him for 30 seconds and you’re state champ and that’s what he did. … Mateo was fighting to keep him under control and time ran out and there he was — state champ. It was so awesome.”
“Right after I got the reversal in the third round, I was feeling good but I wasn’t 100% confident I was going to win because there was still like 40 seconds left,” Sanchez said of the final moments of his state-championship victory. “But right when the ref blew the final whistle, it was like a dream. Like it wasn’t a reality. … I was just so happy that I ran straight to my mom and was crying. This is the best feeling that I’ve had.”
Montesano senior Cole Ekerson reached the state final in the 1A 132-pound weight class for the second consecutive season, losing a narrow 2-1 decision in overtime to Omak’s Darrell Nanpuya on an escape. Ekerson attempted to shoot and score in response, but time ran out on the Montesano senior.
“(Nanpuya) was super strong and had great balance and Cole just could not find a way to get through his defense,” Klinger said. “We tried to game plan for it, it just wasn’t our night. Cole tried as hard as he could. It’s no shame. … It was arguably his toughest opponent all year.”
The loss was Ekerson’s first of the season and wraps up an impressive prep career that included more than 100 wins, less than 10 losses and two state finals appearances.
“I call them ‘The Hammers’ and that is what they were all year long,” Klinger said of Sanchez and Ekerson. “They’re the team leaders and the most experienced guys on the team. They performed and were everything we’ve been looking for. Those are the kind of kids you want leading your team. I’m very proud of their efforts.”
Montesano also got wins from Kaleb Ames (160 pounds) and Jesse Cervantes (220) to place eighth as a team with 58 points, placing in the top 10 for the ninth consecutive season.
“That’s kind of a big deal,” Klinger said. “We only had four kids wrestling. … Without Ames and Cervantes, we are not top 10.”
Ames, who placed third in the regional meet a week prior, knocked off regional-champ Stephen Ibsen of Castle Rock 6-3 in the tournament, which was a key victory according to Klinger.
“It was a big-time win for us that I think inspired our kids a lot,” he said. Both (Ames and Cervantes) deserve a big shout out because that was really awesome of them.”
Elma also had a fine showing at the Classic with two second-place state finishes to place in the top 15.
Eagles freshman Xavier Espinoza placed second at 106 pounds after losing an 8-2 decision to Steve Romero of Toppenish.
Eagles senior Austin Salazar battled through a brutal 195-pound bracket to advance to the state final. The Eagles senior faced Toppenish’s Josh Luna in the final, which took multiple overtime periods to determine the outcome.
Luna was able to get a point on an escape before time expired to win the title 7-6.
Elma head coach Jeff Catterlin said he saw something special in his standout senior in a quarterfinal matchup against Zillah’s Aiden Ford, who defeated Salazar in a tournament earlier this season.
“We knew this kid was good and Austin knew what he had to do,” Catterlin said. “Austin had a calmness about him. I could see it in his eyes. … He was not going to be denied a chance at a state title.”
Salazar exploded for a takedown in the first 30 seconds of the quarterfinal and eventually controlled Ford into a far-side cradle to earn a pinfall win 1:30 in the first round.
“If this was the NFL, we would’ve got flagged for excessive celebration,” Catterlin said of Salazar’s victory. “From where the program was five or six years ago until now, we needed that.”
Elma placed 14th overall with 44 points, the first top 15 finish for an Eagles team in about 10 seasons.
“Super proud of everyone who wrestled,” Catterlin said. “Our goal next year is to be in the top 10.”
Willapa Harbor junior Tyson Portmann placed second in the 1B/2B 145-pound final, losing via pinfall to Liberty (Spangle) wrestler Ashton Strobel 25 seconds into the second round.
Teammate Carson Borden defeated Lake Roosevelt’s Christian Carson via fall at 1:56 of the first round to place fifth in the same weight class.
Willapa Harbor placed 14th with 40 points in the 1B/2B team standings.
Aberdeen 103-pounder Talatheon Warness took third by earning a 5-4 decision over Burlington-Edison’s Ben Sommers in the third-place match.
Aiden Watkins placed seventh at 145-pounds to help Aberdeen place 15th in the 2A team standings with 39 points.
Hoquiam’s Anthony Burtenshaw (1A, 195 pounds) and Ocosta’s Gage Grisby (1B/2B, 195) placed fourth in their respective weight classes, as did Elma’s Hailee Stoken, who was the highest-placing local girls wrestler, taking fourth in the 1B/2B/1A/2A 135-pound competition.
“Hailee is a really hard worker and her mindset was that she wanted to be on that podium,” Catterlin said of his senior, who is the highest girls state-placer for Elma in the 12-man bracket era. “She rose to the occasion.”
Other state placers in the girls competition include Montesano’s Kya Roundtree (170, 5th), Hoquiam’s DeVona Sansaver (190, 5th) and Raymond’s Nina Siribun (235, 6th).
Full results can be found at trackwrestling.com.
(Top 8 placement)
2A 106 pounds: 3, Talatheon Warness, Aberdeen.
2A 145: 7, Aiden Watkins, Aberdeen.
1A 106: 2, Xavier Espinoza, Elma.
1A 132: 2, Cole Ekerson, Montesano.
1A 182: 1, Mateo Sanchez, Montesano.
1A 195: 2, Austin Salazar, Elma. 4, Anthony Burtenshaw, Hoquiam.
1B/2B 145: 2, Tyson Portmann, Willapa Harbor. 5, Carson Borden, Willapa Harbor.
1B/2B 195: 4, Gage Grigsby, Ocosta.
1B/2B/1A/2A 135: 4, Hailee Stoken, Elma.
1B/2B/1A/2A 170: 5, Kya Roundtree, Montesano.
1B/2B/1A/2A 190: 5, DeVona Sansaver, Hoquiam.
1B/2B/1A/2A 235: 6, Nina Siribun, Raymond.