Wrestlers end strong at state

February 19, 2013

By Lillian O'Rorke

The local 4A wrestling programs were well-represented at the 25th annual Mat Classic Feb. 15-16 where 14 area wrestlers battled the state’s top athletes for a chance to medal in high school’s biggest tournament.

After taking second at the Region 3 Tournament the weekend before, Skyline High School wrestlers filled eight of the 14 weight classes at the state championship. By the time the two-day tournament was about over, the excitement of having eight wrestlers make it to the final 16 had taken its toll on Gus Kiss’ vocal cords. By 2 p.m. Saturday, the Skyline coach’s voice was all but gone.

“We’re really proud of the fact that we brought eight kids and one alternate,” he said in an almost whisper. “It’s a culmination of hard work and dedication, and it’s nice to see the end result.”

Just like he did in his run up to state, Skyline’s 220-pound wrestler, Sean McAlhaney, came from behind and swept the competition. Having lost his first bout to Brandon Champaco, of Spanaway Lake — who eventually finished four places behind McAlhaney — the Skyline senior pushed on and won his next five matches. He sealed the deal in the final battle for third place by pinning Lake Stevens’ Shaq Reed in 4:31.

By Greg Farrar Jonathan Norris, Issaquah High School senior, wins his first-round 285-pound match by pinning Noah Buckley, of Lewis and Clark, in 35 seconds Feb. 15 at Mat Classic XXV in the Tacoma Dome.

By Greg Farrar
Jonathan Norris, Issaquah High School senior, wins his first-round 285-pound match by pinning Noah Buckley, of Lewis and Clark, in 35 seconds Feb. 15 at Mat Classic XXV in the Tacoma Dome.

“I’m stoked. When I first started wrestling this year, I was off to a terrible start. So, everything now is just like a blessing,” he said with a wide grin on his face. “I went 0-3 my first three matches, I was unseeded in KingCo, and I won KingCo and won regionals. And now, to place third at state is like a dream come true.”

After taking second at regionals the week before, senior Joey Gurke was off to a good start. He swept both his matches Feb. 15, the first with a 10-2 major decision and the second by pinning Richland’s Pryce Seely in 4 minutes and 52 seconds. But those would be his only two wins. Gurke lost the semifinal match the next morning, 12-3, to Joshua Smith, of Kent Meridian. Unable to recover, he lost his next two matches to finish in sixth place.

Skyline’s other state wrestlers included Nate Swanson at 106, Justin Manipis at 113, Joseph DeMatteo at 126, Tristan Steciw at 132, Bo Longmore at 145 and Michael Mecham at 160. All six finished in the top four at regionals but did not medal at state.

The Issaquah High School wrestling team had a lot to be proud of heading into the state tournament. On the road to the Mat Classic, the Issaquah Eagles had gone 9-1 in the regular season, taken second place at KingCo and finished third overall at the Region 3 tournament.

“I’ve been coaching for 17 years and we placed third at a region I’ve never been to. We found out that every weight had at least five or six of the top 20 wrestlers in the state, and we got seven kids out and took third,” said Kirk Hyatt, Issaquah’s coach. “I’m totally happy because that’s what all coaches want, is to go to the top level every year.”

Issaquah sophomore Jordan Hamilton, at 120 pounds, and senior Matt Solusod, at 220, qualified for state by finishing second at regionals. Torre Eaton, at 113, and Louden Ivey, at 126, came into the Mat Classic with third-place regional finishes. Dallas Starren, at 182, qualified by coming in fourth. However, at state those five did not make it into the top eight.

Jonathan Norris, however, did.

When the senior heavyweight first entered Issaquah’s wrestling room four years ago, he had no mat experience. After losing every match that first season, he told Hyatt he’d be back and he’d make it to state. The next year, Norris won one match and again, ended the season with his same vow. He spent the summer cutting firewood and then returned to the wrestling mat, where he finally earned a spot at state and eventually finished in sixth place. In this, his final year, Norris became the regional champ Feb. 9 when he pinned Antonio Pulido, of Heritage, in 54 seconds.

“I was 14 years old, shorter than most kids, a lot heavier. I didn’t win a single match that year, but with hard work and a lot of progress and good coaching, I’ve come up a lot farther than I expected to,” he said Feb. 16 while he prepared to march in the champions’ parade at the Mat Classic.

Norris, at 285, won his first state match by pinning Noah Buckley, of Lewis and Clark, in 35 seconds. He lost his next match but bounced back to pin Yelm’s Tristan Glaser. After losing his next match, Norris battled George Johanson, from Edmonds-Woodway, for seventh place. Before getting pinned, Norris almost had the match when he threw a head-and-arm and had Johanson on his back, but he was called for slam. The Issaquah senior ended in eighth place.

“They get him for slamming,” Hyatt said. “And, he’s not doing it intentionally. He’s throwing so well, they’re flying over the top and he can’t hold them up — most of them are 280.”

Norris is now eying a new challenge.

“He says, ‘I not only want to be a good wrestler but I want to be a good soldier, so this will help me,’” Hyatt recalled after the match. “I said you are absolutely right — this will teach you how to have some fortitude, and hard work is what they do.”


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