Spartans meet their toughest tests at Mat Classic

The Spartans’ Mike Grant tries to prevent Tom Harbey of Mount Spokane from gaining control during their first-round matchup. Harvey went on to claim second place in the tournament.   - Brian Kelly / Bainbridge Island Review
The Spartans’ Mike Grant tries to prevent Tom Harbey of Mount Spokane from gaining control during their first-round matchup. Harvey went on to claim second place in the tournament.
— image credit: Brian Kelly / Bainbridge Island Review

No guts, no glory.

The Spartans stepped onto wrestling’s biggest stage in Washington this weekend for the 25th Mat Classic, and found they had plenty on one, but left without much of the other.

Medals were hard to come by, with just one Spartan — Dylan Read in the 138-pound weight class — finishing in the top eight to win hardware. Read placed seventh.

Spartan Coach Dan Pippinger said the Spartans tried to approach the Mat Classic as just another tournament.

Easier said than done, of course.

“You’re trying to get them to perform as though it’s just another tournament,” he said.

“That’s a hard thing to do” he said.

“It’s such a big space and there’s so much going on around them. Getting focused on a match is a difficult thing to do at times,” he said.

The pressure of winning on the first day and coming back on the second day of the tourney is immense. And then there’s the caliber of the competition at the state meet.

“Each match at the state tournament for these guys is one of,  if not the toughest, matches they’ve wrestled all year,” Pippinger said.

“You experience really close matches, or a guy that has a technique that you’re unfamiliar with, and it can really kind of get in the head of some of these guys,” he explained.

For the Spartans, it was Read who was able to best move past his first-round challenge.

In the first round, he faced Zach Godard of Peninsula and battled to a 13-0 decision.

Read faltered in the second round, against Terrance McKinney of Shadle Park. McKinney, who would eventually go on to win the state title, pinned the Spartan in 1:28.

McKinney has plenty of reasons why he’s a state champion, from his ability to execute to his control.

Still, Read came the closest of anyone of beating McKinney this year.

“Dylan, just his athletic ability and his persistence, he was as close as anybody in the tournament,” Pippinger said.

Nerves may have been part of the problem in the first two rounds, Pippinger said.

Any jitters were long gone by the third, however.

In the consolation bracket, Read rebounded to conquer Jacob Fitzgerald of Oak Harbor, 7-3.

“He just turned it on and it wasn’t a close match,” Pippinger said.

Christian Nibarger of Mount Spokane thwarted the Spartan’s chances at a higher finish, however, with a 7-2 decision in the third round.

In the fourth, Read earned a 15-7 decision over Daniel Montoya of Interlake.

While Read, a junior, didn’t have the finish he’d hoped for, Pippinger said he should be proud of what he accomplished.

“Getting a medal at the state tournament is a great thing,” Pippinger said.

Sophomore Joaquin Gurza faced a tough start at the tournament, with a first-round match against John Hoover of Mountain View, the Region 4 champ and eventual champion this year.

Hoover came out ready to wrestle, and pinned Gurza in 1:03.

Gurza then came up against Christian Aragon of Decatur, and Aragon picked up a win with a 1:30 pin.

In the 160-class, Bryce McDonald squared off against Mario Gonzalez of Prairie.

Gonzalez won by a pin in 2:18, sending McDonald into the consolation bracket.

There, the senior Spartan was outmatched by Ryan Anderson of Enumclaw, who would eventually go on to win out his consolation matches to take third place in the Mat Classic.

“I was really proud of Bryce; he came out aggressive and he really put everything he had into his matches,” his coach said.

“He put himself in position to be close but wasn’t quite able to get things done. But he really made the guys who were wrestling him wrestle.

“That’s always not the case. You can lose a match and the guy feels, ‘Well, I didn’t have to compete.’”

Weber Coryell had a tough go-round in the first round.

Sisto Pina of Kamaikin tested Coryell and came away with a 5:50 pin win.

In the consolation matches, Coryell quickly returned to form. He pinned Keidrick O’Bannon of Lincoln in 1:36 to advance to the third round against Luke Holsinger of Peninsula.

Holsinger, however, outlasted Coryell with a 4-3 victory.

“Weber was one point away from winning his second match and wrestling in the medal round. He’s got a lot to be proud of in terms of being that close,” said Coach Pippinger.

Senior Spartan Tyler Moniz (182-pound class) found a tough first-round challenge against Daniel Avalos of Sunnyside. Avalos prevailed in a 7-5 decision.

The spotlight of state also shone harshly on Tyler.

“I think the nerves of competing at the state tournament in the first rounds were a little tough,” Pippinger said.

“Once he kind of turned it on, things looked different.”

In the second round, Moniz got caught in a funny position by Kelyn Wallin of Enumclaw and was pinned.

“He was wining the match and then fell off the top and got himself out of position and the kid caught him,” Pippinger said. “At that point, once you get caught it’s sometimes pretty hard to get yourself untangled.”

Mike Grant, Bainbridge’s wrestler in the 220 class, also lost his first match.

Tom Harvey of Mount Spokane pinned the Spartan in 5:57.

Grant also fell in a 9-3 decision against Garrett Grau of Enumclaw in his second match.

Grant usually enters the competition lighter than most in his class.

“Mike is a scrapper; he goes out there and he fights. He’ll keep at it, he keeps getting at it,” Pippinger said.

“He can often make up for what he lacks in size with his heart and grit. At the state tournament, everyone’s got that. And they’ve got the size and the technique and the desire.”

Overall, Pippinger said he was happy with the way his Spartans competed this year, in a season that had more challenges than most. There’s also a Metro League title to remember.

“If you look at our season, we had a quite a lot of adversity in terms of the health of our team, and guys being available throughout the season,” he said.

“I think the guys were pretty resilient in overcoming those things and fighting to where they got. I’m very proud to be their coach, and really proud of their desire and intensity.”

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