State title in Tahoma’s sights | Wrestling
February 17, 2010 · 7:05 PM
The Tahoma High wrestling team continued its dominance Friday and Saturday during the Class 4A Region I tournament at Auburn High.
Meanwhile, Kentwood standout Ruben Navejas bounced back in a big way after a stunning loss a week before.
Behind six finalists and three champions, top-ranked Tahoma walked away with the team title at the tournament, holding off three-time state champion Lake Stevens 197.5-172. Auburn finished in third, Snohomish fourth and Edmonds-Woodway fifth.
Tahoma owned the tournament, putting itself in prime position to win its first state championship this weekend since 1996, when it won a Class 3A title.
“We’re firing on all cylinders right now,” said Tahoma coach Chris Feist. “We’re peaking at the right time. This is the best I have ever seen a Tahoma team wrestle.”
Tahoma advanced a tournament-high 10 wrestlers to the state tournament (Feb. 19-20 at the Tacoma Dome), which will put the Bears in the driver’s seat to capture the team crown. Lake Stevens, long a state powerhouse, advanced seven wrestlers to the state tournament.
“We came into the season saying this was our year,” Feist noted.
It has been Tahoma’s year thus far. On Saturday, Tahoma crowned three of the 14 regional champions – Tyler Lamb at 140, Nick Bayer at 189 and Konner Knudtsen at 215.
The importance of beating Lake Stevens and winning a state team title is huge, Bayer insisted.
“Getting past Lake Stevens is a mental thing. If we can beat them at regionals, then we can beat them at state,” said Bayer, a two-time state champion. “To me, winning a team title is more important than my (potential) three titles. We haven’t done it in 15 years.”
The other big news from the tournament came from Kentwood’s Navejas, the team’s 103-pound standout. Navejas was stunned a week earlier in the sub-district championship against Tahoma’s Steven Hopkins.
This time, however, Navejas would not be denied. The Kentwood senior pinned his way into the championship match, then held on for a 7-4 win over Hopkins to improve to 36-2 this season.
Navejas did not comment on the win, instead choosing to wait until after the state tournament to speak with members of the media.
The significance of the performance, however, was not lost on Kentwood coach Ken Sroka.
“Every time Ruben steps on the mat, I expect him to win,” said Sroka. “Ruben is a special wrestler. Hopkins has improved and gotten better and it’s going to be a battle like that each time. But I’m pretty confident in Ruben’s ability. If he wrestles like that and how he did (Friday), I think he’ll be just fine at state.”
Nathan Herrick (285 pounds) captured Kentwood’s other crown.
Herrick held off Auburn’s Nick Conlan, 2-1. It was Conlan’s first loss of the season as he dropped to 28-1.
“It was important to win, but I knew I was going to state and that’s the main part,” said Herrick, who lost to Conlan a week earlier in the sub-district championship. “Last year, I took fifth (at regions) and ended up taking third (at state). Once you get there, it’s a whole new ballgame.”
The top five wrestlers from each weight class at the regional tournament earned berths to the state tournament.
Kentwood and Kentlake have four wrestlers apiece headed to state.
One of the tournament’s most inspirational performances came from Kentwood’s Jose Hernandez, who competed at 171 last year and lost roughly 50 pounds in the offseason and now competes at 125.
Hernandez took third en route to earning a state berth. In the process, he stunned Kentridge standout Nick Aliment, who won the sub-district title and competed at state a year ago.
“I am happy, I am excited, and I am pumped,” said a beaming Hernandez. “Now my goal is to make it to the second day at state.”
On the flipside of Hernandez’s big day was Aliment’s heartbreak. After falling to Hernandez, Aliment was eliminated from state contention by Tahoma’s Daniel Haniger in a triple-overtime bout. Tied 1-1 after regulation, Aliment aggressively attacked Haniger and neared a takedown on three separate occasions, but he wasn’t able to finish the job. In the final 30-second overtime, Haniger managed an escape to win the match and seal the state berth.
“It’s hard, man. He’d been wrestling so tough all year long,” said Kentridge coach Jason De La Rosa. “But at least Nick has another shot. A lot of these kids are seniors and won’t be back next year. Nick will be back next year.”
Kentridge’s Jeff Seid, who took fourth at 160 pounds, was the lone Charger to advance.
Sean Cavanagh led the way for Kentlake, advancing to the finals before falling to Thomas Jefferson standout Kyle McIntosh in the 145 pound weight class.
“He’s taken a huge step up this year,” Kentlake coach Jeremy Williams said about Cavanagh. “He just wrestled outstanding today. He got to the finals, which was one of his goals.”
Other Kentlake wrestlers moving on to state include: Sean Farr (112), Colton Marlowe (119) and Samir Faizoullin (130).