TACOMA — In any number of Snohomish area wrestling rooms, stowed far away from the Tacoma Dome’s grand stage and hundreds of Mat Classic wrestling fans’ watchful eyes, Glacier Peak’s Kiley Hubby and Snohomish’s Joessie Gonzales over the past two seasons were together earning sweat equity preparing for their state-championship moments.
“Last year I was on the varsity guys’ team, and she was my first match,” said Hubby of the origin of her and Gonzales’ friendship. “It was Snohomish versus GP. We didn’t know each other. I was just ready to go out there, and after that match we got in contact and have been wrestling in the same club and have been drilling partners and workout together. We have just really created this special bond in the last year.”
Saturday, at Mat Classic XXX, Hubby and Gonzales shared another moment. Both became state champions. But they did so in vastly different ways.
Hubby, a 145-pound sophomore, made quick work of Wahluke freshman Laly Gonzalez-Nunes, earning a pin in 1 minute, 12 seconds.
Gonzales, a 130-pound senior, had to work a bit harder. She pinned her way to the finals before grinding out a 11-4 decision over Naches Valley’s Kaylee Moore in a match that was much closer than the final score indicated. Gonzales led 6-4 with less than 45 seconds remaining in the third period when she scored a takedown and added a three-point near fall to seal her win.
The title was a major payoff for Gonzales, who didn’t reach Mat Classic’s medal rounds as a freshman and took home fourth-place medals each of the past two seasons.
“Losing and not getting what I want as a goal and finally achieving it is like the biggest thing ever,” said Gonzales, fighting back tears of joy. “After my junior year I took fourth place in a different weight class. I felt like I wasn’t getting anywhere, so I decided I’d do year-round wrestling. All summer I traveled, and it really showed.”
Gonzales’ road to a state championship wasn’t without adversity. After pinning River View’s Lindsey Rojas in 54 seconds during the round of 16 and next pinning Decatur’s Paige Dasher in 3:47, the Panthers senior narrowly earned a semifinal win over Grandview’s Jasel Perez.
Gonzalez held a narrow lead when her ankle was rolled up on with less than 30 seconds remaining. The match was stopped. Visibly in pain, Gonzalez continued and somehow managed to pin Perez in the final seconds.
“She almost had to pull out of that last match, but she was able to push through it and get a win,” Snohomish girls wrestling coach Jeremy Pidgeon said. “I think it might have been an Achilles tear. We weren’t sure. We went and taped it and taped the other ankle, too, so (Moore) couldn’t tell which ankle it was.”
Besides being one of five Snohomish County wrestlers to win state titles, Gonzales became the first Snohomish girls wrestler in program history to earn a championship. Gonzales, who began submission wrestling in third grade and has won kickboxing tournaments, intelligently navigated her 130-pound bracket.
“I knew from when I saw my bracket there wasn’t going to be an easy fight,” Gonzales said. “I decided to focus on one match at a time, look at what they did and listened to what my coaches said.”
Hubby didn’t have as grueling of a path to a state title, but she was certainly tested during a 1-0 semifinal win over Union’s Annabell Helm.
The GP sophomore enjoyed a first-round bye before scoring a quarterfinal pin over Eastmont’s Flora Morrow in 1:41. Against Helm, Hubby saved her tournament with an early third-period escape before holding off the Union junior the rest of the way.
Quick state final win, grinding semifinal victory, to Hubby, she didn’t care as long as her match ended with a W.
“Either way,” said Hubby when asked if she enjoyed the speedy state-title win. “I was treating her like any other girl that I would wrestle. I didn’t know who she was. I was expecting a tough match. I went out there banging and ready to go and just attacking.”
Hubby’s state title came after earning a third-place finish her freshman year.
“She is just a hard worker and deserves every bit of it,” Glacier Peak coach Bryan Mossburg said. “She has prepared herself. Her confidence, her poise, I think she got a little nervous that semifinal match. She stayed with it. She is just a fighter and grinder and knew what she wanted.”
Gonzalez, 40 minutes after winning her state title, was one of the first ones to greet Hubby once she came off the mat and began celebrating with her team.
“We were just crying and hugging each other,” Hubby explained. “We didn’t really even need words to describe what happened. We were just really happy and excited for each other.”
While Hubby and Gonzales left Tacoma with the top prize, arguably the tournament’s 140-pound favorite, Kamiak’s Ally de la Cruz, left in disappointment.
There are few obstacles de la Cruz hasn’t pinned, outmatched or outlasted during her decorated wrestling career.
Saturday she couldn’t overcome what she couldn’t control.
The defending state champion and three-time state placer was poised for a final Mat Classic title run. After winning her first two matches Friday, de la Cruz was scheduled for a semifinal match Saturday morning when news came she took an injury default.
“She injured her clavicle (during the quarterfinals), and all her adrenaline was still going so she was able to continue the match,” Kamiak coach Bryan Stelling explained. “Last night it swelled up big time. We couldn’t even pull on her arm without her screaming. She either has a fracture or a severe sprain.”
De la Cruz weighed in Saturday and worked with her assistant coach before the morning session, but Stelling said it became obvious she couldn’t defend herself. So she made the painful decision with her coach and family not to wrestle.
“She really wanted to wrestle badly, but it wasn’t safe to do that,” Stelling said. “She is my most decorated wrestler ever. I love her dearly. She is a great gal, and it’s not just that she is a good wrestler. She is a very good person. I couldn’t be more proud of her. Four-time state placer, nobody can take that away from her. One of the best in Snohomish County.”
Saturday’s injury defaults presented de la Cruz a sixth-place medal to go with her third, second and first-place medals her previous three seasons.