TACOMA — Alex Rapelje has a message for his future wrestling foes:
This is only the beginning.
The Edmonds-Woodway High School sophomore earned his first state championship Saturday evening, highlighting local performances in the early weights during Day 2 of Max Classic XXXII at the Tacoma Dome.
Rapelje defeated Prairie junior Jason Wilcox 4-2 in the Class 3A 138-pound final to claim his first state championship. And what did winning a state title mean to Rapelje?
“It means I’m going to get two more,” Rapelje said.
“It feels great,” Rapelje added. “I’ve just been working for it for a long time. It feels good to get it, finally.”
Rapelje was one of six locals who contested finals through 170 pounds on the boys side and 145 pounds on the girls side prior to The Herald going to print.
Stanwood senior Riley Van Scoy lost 15-7 to Shadle Park junior Juan Escobar in the 3A 170-pound championship match; Snohomish senior Ryan Cote lost to Peninsula senior Nolan Casey 14-0 in the 3A 160-pound title match; Edmonds-Woodway sophomore Ethan Nguyen dropped an 11-2 decision to North Central junior Steven Zaragoza in the 3A 106-pound final; Granite Falls junior Hayden Long lost by second-period pin to Seton Catholic sophomore Christopher Hamblin in the 1A 152-pound final; and Jackson junior Amanda Rasoumoff lost by first-period pin to Kentwood senior Ivy Knight in the girls 145-pound final.
Edmonds-Woodway also was the best-positioned local school in the team standings heading into the championship matches. The Warriors were in second place in 3A prior to the finals with two finalists, but were comfortably behind first-place Mt. Spokane. Stanwood was in fourth with one finalist. In 4A Lake Stevens was in sixth, but the Vikings had no finalists.
Rapelje, fourth at 3A state last year at 120 pounds, was the favorite heading into his championship match, having beaten Wilcox 7-2 last weekend to claim the 3A Region 2 title. Yet the match didn’t go Rapelje’s way at the start. In the first period Wilcox managed to get a hold of Rapelje’s leg, and although Rapelje was able to hop one-legged out of bounds, he was called for fleeing the ring, giving Wilcox a 1-0 lead going into the second.
But the second round was Rapelje’s. First he escaped to tie it up at 1-1, then he executed a takedown that nearly took Wilcox directly onto his back, though Wilcox was able to avoid giving up any near-fall point. Nevertheless, Rapelje took a 3-1 lead into the third.
Rapelje started the third on top and managed to ride Wilcox almost the entire round, with Wilcox even being penalized a point for stalling. Wilcox finally escaped with two seconds remaining and made one quick lunge for Rapelje’s legs, but was unable to get a grasp, and Rapelje was the champ.
Rapelje is Edmonds-Woodway’s first wrestling state champion since Mason McDaniel won the 160-pound title in 2016.
“He was ready,” Edmonds-Woodway coach Brian Alfi said about Rapelje. “They wrestled last week, so they made some adjustments to get ready for us and they did a good job. They slowed down the pace a little bit and tried to get to the legs a little more. Alex did a really good job last week getting to his legs and getting takedowns early, and they made some good adjustments and did a good job defending leg attacks. But Alex is really tough defensively, he’s tough to score on. The only point (Wilcox) really got was a fleeing-the-mat call when (Rapelje) was in the center.”
The Warriors weren’t able to make it two champions as Nguyen’s height disadvantage against Zaragoza proved the difference, with Zaragoza in control throughout. But Nguyen had a big moment in the semifinals when he defeated Stanwood freshman Tyler Rhue 11-3 to hand Rhue his first defeat of the season.
“I feel a little down about (finishing second),” said Nguyen, who still improved dramatically from his seventh-place finish at 106 pounds last year. “Then again, I’m only a sophomore, so I have next year to improve.”
Overall it was a tremendous tournament for the Warriors, who were set for the best team finish in school history.
“As a group we wanted to win a state title, that was our mindset, and they really came to wrestle day one,” Alfi said. “Every kid battled. If you’re trying to knock off the defending state champ in Mt. Spokane everything has to go right. I think we wrestled really tough with seven state placers.”