MASTERS OF THE MAT
December 17, 2013
By Christina Corrales-Toy
Liberty wrestlers overwhelm Juanita, 58-4
The Maywood Middle School gymnasium may not technically be the Liberty High School wrestling team’s home site, but the Patriots sure looked comfortable there as they cruised to a dominant 58-4 win against Juanita on Dec. 12.
The Patriots won all but one of their matches, making a statement about the strength of this year’s team, led by first-year coach Wright Noel.
“The team did great,” he said. “We’re trying to get better each time and this was a good evaluation of how we’re doing, and we’re happy with how we did.”
Liberty senior Nate Sjoholm put up a gusty, and bloody, fight in the 145-pound bout, earning the Patriots’ third pin of the night in 4 minutes, 50 seconds.
The official stopped the match several times because of Sjoholm’s bloody nose. When he returned to the mat, it was with a face full of tape wrapped across his nose to stem the bleeding.
Zach Toombs also had a win for the Patriots in the 132-pound match, coming from behind to pin his opponent in 4:36. Will Nguyen also had a pin in his 195-pound bout.
“Zach came back really hard. He was down and I was worried about him, but I’m proud of him,” Noel said.
One of the more exciting matches of the night involved Liberty’s state-returning wrestler junior Conner Small. Last year, Small placed fifth at the Tacoma Dome, wrestling at 152 pounds.
Small never trailed in the 160-pound match against Juanita’s Mason McDaniel, but it remained close the entire time.
After the first period, Small led 2-0, but McDaniel tied it up 2-2 after the second. Small eventually won, 7-5.
“Conner Small, the kid he wrestled is a kid that’s ranked at state and so he showed very well today,” Noel said.
The Patriots’ Jimmy Andrus (152) and Romney Noel (170) also came away with wins. Noel won 13-5, while Andrus won 15-10.
Freshman Dulin Hayden (126) dropped Liberty’s only match, losing to his Juanita counterpart, 10-2. Even so, the Liberty coach said he was encouraged by the freshman’s performance.
“We want to keep fighting until the end, and all of our guys did that, even in the match we lost,” Noel said. “Dulin was working hard and went all the way to the end.”
Liberty’s Dillon Ching (113), Sean Surowiec (120), Tyler Le (138), Quinn Magendanz (182) and Zach Arthur (220) won their matches by forfeit.
Even though it is the Liberty coach’s first year at the helm, Noel’s very familiar with the Patriots’ squad, having served as an assistant under previous coach Manny Brown.
“Fortunately, Manny left me with fairly full shelves, so that makes it easier,” Noel said. “I’m still getting my feet wet, but the team’s getting better, hopefully I’m getting better and we’re all having fun doing it.”
Liberty’s team is a pretty experienced group, Noel said, and with some key newcomers added to the mix, the Patriots’ season outlook is promising.
“I think we’re going to have a solid year,” Noel said. “We have a lot of juniors, one or two seniors and I’m really impressed with our underclassmen.”
Patriots show well at Battle at the Border
The Liberty wrestling team competed among the best teams in the state at the 2013 Battle at the Border tournament held in Blaine on Dec. 14.
Two Liberty wrestlers won their weight divisions in the 22-team competition. In the championship matches, Small defeated Blaine’s Jon Stewart, 6-3, to win the 160-pound division while Romney Noel defeated Tumwater’s Clark Smith, 1-0, in the 170-pound division.