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State placers return for Tahoma, Kentwood and Kentlake | Wrestling
There are a number of story lines in the South Puget Sound League North when it comes to wrestling.
Tahoma, the reigning league dual meet champion for more for the better part of the past decade, appears to be in a rebuilding year. Kentwood’s Meyers brothers, Dalton and Walker, will look to continue the family tradition of bringing home medals from state. Kentlake juniors Nick Smith and Josh Beckler should set the standard for Falcons this season.
Bears reload, not rebuild
Tahoma senior Justin Weiding, who will wrestle at 145 during the regular season, is among a group of seniors who will step into leadership roles this season for the first time, something that will be important in helping the Bears prove their doubters wrong.
“A lot of people are saying this is going to be a rebuilding year,” Weiding said. “But, it’s not, because we have so many freshmen and sophomores. It’s always a fight to make JV and varsity because we have guys at so many weights. A lot of people thought that this year we aren’t going to be very good. But, we beat one of the top five teams in state. It’s going to surprise people how well we’re going to do.”
That depth was key in Tahoma’s state performances in the past, particularly its last 4A championship in 2012, when 15 wrestlers competed at Mat Classic at the Tacoma Dome.
Senior Cruz Velasquez, who will compete in the 132 pound weight class during the regular season, explained that while Tahoma graduated some excellent competitors in Garret Autrey, Matt Hopkins and Tim Whitehead, just to name a few examples, that the program is good enough to move forward and fill in those slots.
“We’re in a really good spot because people doubt us,” Velasquez said. “But we’re bringing up JV guys who are beating other teams’ varsity guys. We’re a tough team. We go to tough tournaments like TriState and Hammerhead.”
Weiding noted that the culture of the program is a key element of Tahoma’s success, as well.
“The camaraderie we all have,” Weiding said. “We all get along really well. We also have a good work ethic. We don’t screw around. When it’s time to wrestle, we get things done.”
Not only does Tahoma want to get the big trophy again at Mat Classic, Weiding said, the Bears want to repeat as SPSL champions and they aim to do well in the classroom, too, with a team grade point average of 3.2 the goal this season.
Velasquez pointed out that Tahoma wrestlers grow in the program and bring the right kind of attitude to the mat. He is particularly impressed with the newest wrestlers.
“We’ve got a lot of freshmen who’ve come in and can bang with the seniors,” Velasquez said.
Weiding said opponents may not be ready for Cooper Thomas, who is moving up from JV to wrestle at 195 pounds.
“He was over 300 pounds two years ago,” Weiding said. “Now he’s at 195. I think he’s going to surprise a lot of people. He should go far in state.”
Velasquez said he expects big things out of Tim Whiteheads younger brother.
“A lot of our freshmen are good,” Velasquez said. “Nick Whitehead, for example, I think he could place really high in state if not win it. We’ve got really tough young wrestlers. They’re already showing signs of leadership, which is great.”
As a senior who has wrestled varsity for several years, Velasquez has advice to pass on to the younger members of the team.
“Probably the biggest thing I’ve learned is to basically be relaxed and not worry about who you wrestle,” Velasquez said. “It’s technique. And mindset. Wrestle like it’s your last match. Wrestle like it’s the state final.”
During the coming weeks, Velasquez expects Tahoma to have a shot at going for another state title, which will be a battle with Lake Stevens. In February Tahoma finished second at state to Lake Stevens.
“We, as a team, want to be a state championship team,” Velasquez said. “We’re in it to win it. We’re climbing up there but we’re not quite there yet. We have a ton of potential.”
Kentlake ready to challenge
Jeremy Williams, the head coach for Kentlake, wrote in an email interview that the Falcons are ready to challenge for the top of the SPSL North mountain.
“This year I feel that Kentlake can take a big step forward in wrestling,” Williams wrote. “Our real goal now is to get to that point where we are the best team in the league. Individually, we have two returning state placers as well as a returning state participant. Add into that mix three others with legitimate state placing potential and our team becomes pretty dangerous come post-season.”
At Mat Classic in February, Beckler finished eighth in the 145 pound weight class, while Smith took home sixth place at 106 pounds.
Williams wrote that thus far, what has surprised him most are the freshmen wrestlers who are highly competitive, with three or four who are ready to contribute to the varsity team now and are doing well.
Williams is confident about the team’s potential this season.
“Our teams biggest strength is our positive, hard-working attitude,” Williams wrote. “Everything we are doing now is in preparation for February. Up until then, win or lose, this is all practice for us.”
Meyers brothers part of family legacy
Dalton Meyers, a senior, and younger brother Walker, a junior, are part of a long wrestling legacy at Kentwood. Their older sister Jolene Crook-Meyers was a state champion while two years ago Cassidy Meyers, who is now a freshman playing rugby at American International College, won a state wrestling championship as a junior.
The Meyers brothers have started this season off well, both winning individual titles Dec. 14 in the Battle at the Border tournament in Blaine, helping Kentwood finish third as a team — Walker won the 132 pound class and Dalton took home the 145 pound tournament title.
In February Dalton finished seventh in the 132 pound bracket while Walker took home sixth place at 120 pounds.
Kentwood’s Andy Sandhu finished third in the 106 pound bracket at the Battle at the Border tournament while Abriel Rodriguez finished fourth at 132. Nick Barden took home third at 170, Tim Angevine finished fifth at 195 and Austin Duncan closed out the tournament with a third place medal at 285.