Wrestlers advance five to Regionals

Before the final rounds of the Metro wrestling tournament in West Seattle Saturday, a smoke machine pumped out a white haze, rock music blared from the PA system and strobe lights illuminated the league’s best as they squared off on either side of the mat.

But for all of the unusual flash and hype of the event, three Spartans didn’t change a thing when it came time to throw down.

Senior John-Michael King and junior Zach Smith took the top spots in the league at the 130- and 125-pound weight classes, and junior Billy Thomas battled out a second-place finish at 171.

Smith earned his third Metro League title, powering through his 125-pound competition and recording a 10-0 technical fall against West Seattle’s Eric Hallberg in the final round.

Smith had bested the senior a week prior, and wasted no time in picking up a two-point takedown in the opening seconds.

One minute into the second period, Smith lifted up Hallberg and obliged a fan in the bleachers who yelled “toss him!” at the Bainbridge junior. Smith wore down Hallberg for the final pair of minutes, working the elbow, then the shoulder of the Wildcat, before a sudden flip put Hallberg on his back and nearly out of bounds.

Hallberg squirmed with only a second left in the match, but Smith recorded a three-point near fall at the buzzer.

“I’d wrestled that kid before,” Smith said. “I was really happy not to have given up any points.”

While Smith’s match was a six-minute, steady-paced jog, senior John-Michael King’s 130-pound bout with West Seattle’s Nick Connor was a hard, fast sprint.

King quickly dropped Connor to the mat for a pair of points, and then the two did somersaults for 30 seconds before Connor picked up King and heaved him downward.

King bounced back up and rapidly put the Westside senior in an uncomfortable position, pinning him with 23 seconds remaining in the first period.

“John-Michael fixed his mistakes immediately,” coach Britton Johnson said of King’s day.

“I went all three rounds with (Connor) previously,” King said. “I just tried to be aggressive, to be mentally prepared.”

The win was King’s first Metro title, and the senior is hesitant to speculate on next week’s regional match-ups.

“You can’t look too far ahead,” King said. “If you do, you probably won’t get there.”

Junior Billy Thomas made a run for his first Metro title at 171-pounds, falling short only after three tough periods in the final match against Blanchet sophomore Sam McNaghten.

Thomas had wrestled McNaghten twice previously, losing 10-8 and 12-4 during the regular season.

“At this level, you just try not to force moves,” Thomas said. “He’s a tough kid, you can’t make mistakes against him.”

Thomas found himself down 2-1 in the first after a McNaghten takedown and subsequent escape. The second period saw the Crusader wrestler nearly pin Thomas, adding three points from a near-fall before the pair flipped end-over-end at the buzzer.

Thomas and McNaghten went round and round in the third, but McNaghten continued to rack up points on the Spartan grappler -- finishing with a takedown and a 13-4 technical fall win. Thomas settled for second place overall, good for a trip to regionals.

Elliott Thompson lost his first match of the day to Nathan Hale’s Ian Paeth, but worked out of a tough consolation bracket to finally defeat West Seattle’s Jimmy Costa 6-4 for third place in the 189-pound weight class.

135-pounder Brian Robert pinned Ingraham’s Robert Birdsell to advance to the semifinals, before losing to Eddie Lobdell of Eastside Catholic.

Robert then recorded a pair of technical fall victories in the consolation bracket for third place overall in the league.

“He had no problem taking third,” Johnson said of the sophomore. “He should have had first or second.”

Spartan Ian Brooks scrapped his way out of the consolation bracket after losing to Nathan Hale’s Sam Wildman. The 152-pounder won three more matches, pinning Sealth senior Eric Castillo to gain fifth place -- and a spot as an alternate at the regional meet.

Freshman Dan Hammond had two byes, two losses and a win for seventh, and senior Bobby Stowell took a seventh place spot as well, defeating West Seattle’s Justin Kiel with a pin at 1:45 in the match.

Patrick Macala also finished in seventh, besting Sealth sophomore Lavonna Huston in the consolation bracket. David Winship rounded out the Spartan effort with an eighth-place finish in the 145-pound class.

The regional competition will take place this weekend at White River High School.

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