WRESTLING: Quinn's mission
December 19, 2008 · Updated 3:56 PM
The affirmation keeps running through Cody Quinn’s mind.
It was bad luck, he tells himself. A cheap move when he was simply out of position.
Either way, driven by last year’s first-round loss at the state tournament, Kentwood’s 145-pound standout enters this season with a decent-sized chip on his shoulder.
And a little something to prove.
“I really have just put state out my mind,” said the affable and lanky Quinn, all the while going more into detail about an admittedly forgettable tournament. “Last year was a learning experience. I just went in, terrible luck really, got thrown in a head and arm and went from a guy picked to be in the finals, maybe win it, to having to go through the back door.
“It was a fluke.”
That “fluke” caused an instant buzz at the Tacoma Dome last February, ultimately being tabbed as the biggest upset of the opening day.
But what Quinn fails to mention — and what some at the T-Dome might not remember — was how the Kentwood wrestler responded. Because after getting “caught” in that first match — resulting in a pin in just 1 minute, 40 seconds by Moses Lake’s Cameron Chlarson — Quinn delivered the goods. Instead of licking his wounds, Quinn bucked up, won four straight matches and earned a fourth-place finish. That was four places ahead of Chlarson, his first-round nemesis.
And this came after Quinn missed the first half of the season with a torn meniscus in his right knee.
“I feel like it would have gone a lot different had I been able to go the entire season,” said Quinn, who wrestled at 135 a year ago. “In my head, I’d like to say ‘no.’ That the knee wasn’t an issue. In reality, I was in great shape.”
He just wasn’t at the peak of his wrestling ability.
Fast-forward to this season.
Quinn’s at full strength, the moves that made him a standout for years are still intact, and he has a score to settle at state — a place with which he is more than familiar.
Matter of fact, if Quinn brings home a state medal in February, he’ll become the first four-time placer in Kentwood High history. Only 24 Class 4A wrestlers have accomplished that feat.
“If he places, he’s joining an elite group,” Kentwood coach Ken Sroka acknowledged.
Of course, Quinn isn’t thinking about just placing. After taking fourth, third and fifth, respectively, the last three years, it’s time to climb to the ladder’s highest rung.
And Quinn knows it.
“I’m looking for a little more than a place this year,” said Quinn, who brings a 101-18 overall record into the season. “I use (last year) as a lot of my drive for this year. I really don’t like being looked at as a fourth-place finisher.
“That’s not what I am.”
Ready to challenge
It has been two years since Kentwood has lost a South Puget Sound League North Division dual meet.
Nobody knows that better than Tahoma coach Chris Feist, whose Bears have dropped just one league dual in each of the past two years — both to Kentwood.
The two schools, separated by roughly two miles, appear to be on a collision course again this winter.
But with six state veterans returning, including champion Nick Bayer, the time for the junior- and senior-laden Bears to knock off the Conks could be now.
“Kentwood is going to have something to say about that,” said Feist, now in his fifth year. “They’re still in the driver’s seat and we’re chasing, as usual. But I’d like to think we have a better chance this year than the last few.”
Of course, considering Tahoma’s dominant junior class — four of its six state qualifiers last year were sophomores — a changing of the guard could be taking place in the North. Throw in youngster Steven Hopkins, a 103-pound freshmen who currently is ranked seventh in the state among Class 4A wrestlers, and there’s reason for the Bears to be excited.
“Depthwise, I’m excited because we have two or three weights where the varsity guys are being pushed,” Feist said.
Not to be forgotten
Lost in the shuffle of the constant battle for the North’s top spot being waged between Tahoma and Kentwood is Kentlake, a program that has enjoyed its share of success.
Matter of fact, the Falcons qualified seven wrestlers for state last year, four of whom are returning this season. But the Falcons also have four wrestlers back who went deep into last season’s regional tournament, but didn’t quite advance to state.
“(Kentwood and Tahoma) are pretty loaded up,” Kentlake coach Pete Reardon said. “We’re not up there at the level of those guys yet, but if we improve like we can, get those state qualifiers up to placing status, we’ll be right in the hunt.”
Very much currently in the hunt for the Falcons are Jeff Harjehausen (103), Zack Callahan (130), Austin Carrillo (140) and Greg Ely (160). All four advanced to state last year, though Harjehausen was unable to compete after an elbow injury a week earlier.
But can they break through at state?
“That would be a great accomplishment,” Reardon said. “It’s something that’s possible and it’s what we’re shooting for.”
WRESTLING: AT A GLANCE
• Favorites: Kentwood, Tahoma.
• Contender: Auburn.
• Sleepers: Kentlake, Auburn Riverside.
• League outlook: The last two seasons have been a grind between Kentwood and Tahoma with the Conquerors taking the league crown each year. The Conquerors haven’t lost a league dual since Jan. 11, 2006 (34-28 to Auburn Riverside), but will be hard pressed to hold off a deep Tahoma team this winter especially considering the Conks graduated six of their 13 state qualifiers from a year ago. However, unlike the previous two seasons, the division title hardly will be decided between just Kentwood and Tahoma as Auburn has jumped back into the SPSL North equation. The Trojans took second in the SPSL 3A a year ago (and third at state) to perennial power Enumclaw and will give the Bears and Conks a stiff challenge. Meanwhile, Auburn Riverside also will be shifting back into the 4A gear, but isn’t likely to have the depth to challenge the league heavyweights. Kentlake returns two wrestlers who qualified for state a year ago and should surprise as will Kent-Meridian, which has made steady progress in each of the last two years.
• Returning state placers (last year’s finish and previous weight class): Ruben Navejas, Kentwood (5th/103); Derek Lipp, Kentwood (5th/112); Cody Quinn, Kentwood (4th/135); Jesus Valdez, Kent-Meridian (8th/103); Tyler Lamb, Tahoma (5th/125); Nick Bayer, Tahome (1st/160); Kelly Maughan, Auburn (6th/119); Jake Swartz, Auburn (1st/171); Ivan Mukomol, Thomas Jefferson (8th/119).
CIRCLE ON THE CALENDAR
Dec. 19-20, Tri-State: Many wrestlers consider this the biggest tournament of the year. Top grapplers from around the Northwest compete. Auburn, Auburn Mountainview, Kentlake and Tahoma will be competing.
Jan. 2-3, Pac Coast: Tournament at Hudson’s Bay High in Vancouver is nearly as big as Tri-State. Kentwood, Tahoma and Auburn will be in competition.
Jan. 14: Kentwood at Tahoma — If the last two years are any indication, this could decide the North crown.
Jan. 22: Kentlake at Kentwood — Dubbed “Cov-town Throwdown,” roughly a dozen state qualifiers should be in competition.
Feb. 20-21: State tournament, Tacoma Dome: The best way to explain the state tournament for those who have not been there is controlled chaos. Definitely worth the price of admission.
• Notable: Jason DelaRosa is taking over for Kyle Patick at Kentridge this season. DelaRosa will be the school’s third wrestling coach in as many years and brings back a young team. Senior Max Saurwein (119) figures to be the team’s top wrestler. ... The North returns two state champions — Tahoma junior Nick Bayer (160 last year) and Auburn senior Jake Swartz (171). Barring a severe weight loss by Swartz or a giant weight gain by Bayer, the two standouts aren’t likely to compete against one another this year. Swartz, a heavy favorite to win the 189-pound title, could become the school’s first-ever three-time champion. In addition, he enters the season with 112 career wins, 22 behind former star Shane Onufer (134), who holds the school record and who now is competing at the University of Wyoming. Also at Wyoming is Auburn Riverside two-time state champ Eric Jones. ... Michael Mangrum, a three-time state champ from Auburn Riverside, is now wrestling at Oregon State University. ... Kentwood’s Cody Quinn (4th at 135 last year) will try and become the school’s first four-time state placer. ... Former KW star Brandon Rogers and K-M standout Aaron Smith are now competing at Highline. ... Auburn has placed among the top 10 in the team race at state in each of the last seven years. ... Kentwood (7th with 88 points) and Tahoma (9th with 61 points) were the only two SPSL North teams last year to finish among the top 10 at state. ... Tahoma’s Kevin Tao, a 2007 state champ, now is competing at Columbia University. ... The North is a bit lean as far as female wrestlers are concerned. Regardless, Kentwood’s Antonia Navejas and Jolene Crook-Meyers are among the state’s elite. Both took second at last year’s state tournament — the second time girls have had their own tourney — and will be favorites come February.
• Bookmark on the web: www.washingtonwrestlingreport.com. There isn’t a prep sport around that has a better, more thorough Web site. Wrestling enthusiasts receive rankings for every weight class and school classification in the state. In addition, results of tournaments from around the state — and, in many cases, around the Northwest — can be found on the site as well.
— Erick Walker/The Reporter