WALLA WALLA — Four local wrestlers will head to Tacoma in hopes of claiming a state title at Mat Classic XXVI this weekend.
Pomeroy will send three grapplers — seniors Taylor Lewis and Wyatt Hyer and junior Everett Stevenson — to the Tacoma Dome. Both Lewis and Hyer will be competing in the 160-pound division, while Stevenson will wrestle in the 195-pound class. Waitsburg-Prescott’s Tristan Newman, in the 285-pound class, earned his second consecutive trip to the Mat Classic.
For Lewis and Hyer, their bracket will likely lead to a match between the Pomeroy teammates.
“I’m hoping it will happen somewhere along the line,” Pomeroy coach Brian Slaybaugh said. “I’d really love it if both made the finals. I really don’t want them to wrestle in the second round, unless it’s in the championship.”
Hyer, who scored a fifth-place finish at the regional meet to earn a state berth, has battled a knee injury this season. After qualifying for the state tournament as an alternate last season, Hyer’s road to the finals will be a challenge.
He opens the tournament with a match against Milo Holston, the top-ranked competitor from the region. Holston scored a pin in just 55 seconds against Lewis en route to a first place finish at the East Regional meet last weekend.
“He’s got a pretty tough road,” Slaybaugh said. “His first match is going to be a real tough one. Hopefully he can get past that and make it to the finals.”
Lewis, who took third at regionals after falling to Holston, opens with a match against Garrett Green of Darrington. If both Lewis and Hyer can score victories today, the duo would meet in the second round. Conversely, if both competitors drop their first matches, the pair would square off in the loser’s bracket.
For Lewis, who overcame a gruesome knee injury his freshman year, qualifying for state is nothing short of spectacular.
“He is the hardest working kid at practice every day,” Slaybaugh said. “He’s come miles from where he was at last year. Every bit of this — he’s earned. I’m very proud he’s made it onto state. It’s a goal of his and he’s worked very hard at it.”
The final Pirate competing at state is first-year wrestler Stevenson. His route to the Mat Classic seemed unlikely just a week ago.
After Stevenson opened the regional tournament with a loss to Andrew Karney of Kittitas, Stevenson responded with back-to-back pins. But he dropped his fourth match to Lukas Mieirs of Orville, which left him pitted against White Swan’s Giovanni Rojas with a spot in the state tournament on the line.
Rojas, who had beaten Stevenson three times already during the season, was a heavy favorite, but Stevenson told his coaches he could win.
And that’s exactly what he did.
“He went out and controlled the match at regionals,” Slaybaugh said. “He stepped up to the plate and made it happen.”
With the fifth place finish at regionals, Stevenson earned a match against No. 1 seed Cody Hoffman of Selkirk.
“For someone like Everett, he’ll be totally amazed by how big it is,” Slaybaugh said of the state meet. “The problem he’ll have there is the lack of skill because this is his first year wrestling. He’s been working hard at practice, hopefully he’ll go over there and have a successful tournament.”
Sophomores Havin Heytvelt (145) and Adam Harris (152) also qualified as alternates and will join their teammates in Tacoma. Alternates are used if a competitor is hurt in practice this week or if a wrestler doesn’t make weight.
Waitsburg-Prescott’s Tristan Newman will be making his second consecutive appearance at the state meet in the 285-pound class. Newman did not place last season, but head coach Lanny Adams is confident Newman’s experience will only help.
“He got his first-year jitters out of the way last year, so I think that he is going to be able to focus more on the matches this year,” Adams said. “The Tacoma Dome can be pretty intimidating the first time you enter and the entire floor of the Dome is covered in wrestling mats.”
Newman earned a spot after finishing fourth at the regional tournament. Newman opened regionals with a bye, before losing by pinfall to Mark Daturi of Mary Walker. Newman then rolled off three straight victories by pin, until he lost by decision to Heiko Burkle in the third place match.
Newman opens the state tournament against Daniel Fruh and with a win, would likely meet Daturi in the second round.
“Daturi is short and likes to go straight into his opponent and get him to stand up so he can under hook and throw his opponent,” Adams said. “We will focus a lot of our training this week at shots and getting the takedown. Most of the upper weights are hesitant to shoot on their opponent.”
Outside of Daturi, Newman could also face some familiar opponents, such as Burkle.
“I think that he needs to continue with his aggressiveness and use what is working, or has worked for him this year,” Adams said. “I also think that he needs to believe in his abilities that he can beat some of these opponents that he has lost to in the past.
“Tristan has the potential to place in the top four spots,” Adams added. “I would really like to see Tristan compete in that final match and have his arm raised declaring him the State Champion.”
Walla Walla High School finished its season at the regional tournament, as no Blue devil grapplers qualified for the state meet.
Regardless, Wa-Hi improved its dual meet record from 1-5 last year to 3-4 this season and coach Dallas Jones was excited with his team’s improvement.
“Kids are showing growth and they’re getting better,” Jones said. “We’re definitely heading in the right direction. We didn’t qualify anyone for state, but we’re just young.”
McLoughlin High School will be competing in its regional tournament this weekend and head coach Beau Chester said a number of his wrestlers have a chance at reaching the state tournament.
At this point, Chester pinpointed Riley Chester, Abel Casillas and Jesus Diaz of having a good chance of earning a state berth.
“You never really know without wrestling, but our lineup for this tournament is as strong as we have been all year,” Chester said.