TACOMA — The Meadowdale coaching staff was faced with an unwanted challenge on Friday. The Mavericks brought just three wrestlers to Mat Classic XXVI and as luck — or lack thereof — would have it, all of them wrestled at the same time.
Ciaran Ball, the state’s No. 1 ranked 195-pounder, wrestled on the mat directly next to his junior teammate Tim Smith. Not far away on the girls’ mats was freshman Dee Dee Free, who wrestles at 190 pounds.
“Considering they only give you three coaches passes, it gets you spread out a little bit,” Meadowdale head coach Brian Boardman said. “There is a lot of running around — a lot of running across the gym to the far side to watch Dee Dee.”
It was a difficult, but not entirely unexpected, position for the Mavericks coaches to be in.
“Whenever they’re all around the same weight, it’s not surprising,” Boardman said. “The tournament is run pretty well. As a result, if they have similar numbers they are going to wrestle, unless there’s an injury, around the same time. We’ve run into it in the past before.”
Boardman and his staff anticipated this situation so much that they already had a contingency plan in place. Each wrestler was informed before their match which coach would be with them should they all be wrestling at the same time.
“We pre-mapped everything out, who was going where and why,” Boardman said.
Despite the challenge, everything worked perfectly, all three wrestlers pinned their opponents.
Snohomish was in a similar situation. Panthers junior Peder Morrill and senior Justin Kearney, both 195-pounders, wrestled at the same time as their 182-pound teammate Garrett Stich.
“You just have to know that your kids are prepared and trust that they are and know that they have good coaches with them,” Snohomish head coach Rob Zabel said. “You just kind of make it work.”
Of the three Panthers who wrestled at the same time, only Kearney advanced, defeating Bothell’s Aaron Ibanez 7-3. Morrill lost 13-2 to Union’s Cody Gromes and Stich fell to Yelm’s Holden Miller 7-6, losing a one-point lead late in the match.
It was a busy end to the morning for the Panthers, who had at least one wrestler active for nearly 20 minutes.
“It’s frustrating, but it’s kind of the nature of what we do,” Zabel said. “Generally when a team has tough kids they’re kind of grouped together. When you look at Lake (Stevens) they have a bunch of little guys down low. We just happen to be in a position where the strength of our team is up top.”
Sultan splits at 126 pounds
Having two wrestlers in the same weight class can be tough. Having one win and one lose can be even worse. That was the fate for Sultan at 126 pounds on Friday.
Freshman Jamell Carroll and junior James McKenzie came into the tournament ranked No. 6 and No. 7 in their weight class respectively, but only Carroll would leave the first round victorious.
“It’s very difficult,” MacDicken said of having two kids wrestle in the same weight class. “When they wrestle each other in a match it’s hard for me to even watch. You are looking at two of the best wrestlers on our team and you just pray neither one of them gets hurt.”
Carroll had little trouble with his match, defeating Sumner’s Tucker Wooding 6-1. MacKenzie lost a heartbreaker to W.F. West’s Michael Anderson. MacKenzie led 4-0 before Anderson scored the final five points of the match to earn a 5-4 victory.
For many of Friday’s spectators, finding a place to park was not a walk in the park. The parking lots at the Tacoma Dome filled up early and pay lots also reached their capacity.
One private lot near the Dome was charging as much as $40 to park, while others were charging at least $20.
Street parking was available, but difficult to find. Much of the crowd was forced to walk long distances to enter the arena.
With the championships being decided today, it is likely to be just as busy. If you plan on attending arrive early.
Aaron Lommers covers prep sports for The Herald. Follow him on twitter @aaronlommers and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.