Wa-Hi grapplers head to regional tourney

The Blue Devils take different philosophies into Saturday's tournament as they try to advance to state.

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WALLA WALLA - There are a couple different ways for Wa-Hi's four wrestlers advancing to the Region IV Class 4A wrestling championships to approach the tournament at Richland High Saturday.

"I'm going in there to win it," Eric Eastman, the state's sixth-ranked wrestler at 189 pounds, said before practice at the Wa-Hi gym Wednesday. "My plan is to wrestle to win it."

"I'm hoping to make state - top three," said 125-pounder Dustin Taylor, who was disappointed with this fifth-place finish at district. "I was hoping for at least second. But I can't worry about it now."

Heavyweight Gerald Maib is both conservative, then aggressive - with a caveat.

"I'm hoping to get third - well, actually, I'm hoping to get first," Maib said. "That's what I want, but I'm not going to jinx myself."

Ryan Harmon, who suffered a torn ligament in his thumb in the district 145-pound semifinal at the district tournament in Pasco last weekend, doesn't know quite what to expect. His right hand is entirely wrapped in tape by the injury, which takes at least five weeks to heal - if it heals without surgery.

"I can't really grab anything, so I have to change how I wrestle because everything involves my right arm," Harmon said.

Wa-Hi coach Clayton Hudiburg, however, is optimistic heading into the regional tournament.

"Yeah, I am (confident)," Hudiburg said. "It's really up to them (the wrestlers), though. As coaches, you always know what they're capable of, and what they can do. But you know how kids are. They can turn it on, or they can turn it off.

"We (Wa-Hi's coaches) are confident in what they can do, and we're trying to verbalize that as much as we can, that all four of them can make it to the state tournament," he said. "Whether they do or not is up to them, they're by themselves out there. We're there to cheer for them, but once they step onto the mat it's 100 percent up to them."

Eastman, who finished second at the district tournament, was an alternate to state last year after finishing fifth at regionals. He has a 32-3 record on the season, and was selected district wrestler of the year.

But he doesn't put much stock in his state sixth-place ranking.

"It's alright, but rankings don't mean much," he said.

And Eastman, who has been at two Mat Classics, said those experiences will help him if he returns this year.

"Everytime you go there (to the Tacoma Dome), it's so cool that you just want to work that much harder to get there," he said. "Being there a couple times, you're not blown away by it.

"I hope to place in the top four at state."

"He's had an absolutely great season," Hudiburg said of Eastman. "I think he really wanted to be district champion, he was a little disappointed there. But there is a very fine line separating him from the kid that beat him at the district tournament.

"Right now, we're not focused on where he finished at regionals, as long as it's in the top three and he advances. We'll worry about the placing when he gets to the state tournament."

Harmon, ranked 11th in state, wasn't happy with this fourth-place finish at district despite his injury, which came in the first round of the semifinal.

"It just went downhill from there," he said of the match.

"We can't turn back the clock and try to change that," Hudiburg said of Harmon's injury. "We just have to make the best with what we've got. You can't dwell on those things you can't control. You just focus on doing the best with what you've got at that time, and just hope for the best."

Hudiburg said he's trying to keep his Blue Devils focused on Saturday's tournament.

"We're just trying to drill in their heads that all four of them have the capability to get in there (state tournament)," he said. "They just have to step out there and do it."

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