TACOMA — It’s been quite a journey to get to Day 2 of Mat Classic for Meadowdale High School’s Saul Hernandez.
The Mavericks’ senior made it to the Tacoma Dome in each of his first two seasons but fell short of the semifinals both times.
Then during his junior year when high schools played shortened seasons in the spring and postseason events weren’t held due to COVID-19, Hernandez tore his Achilles at football practice and was forced to miss the following wrestling season and rehab for about six months.
The combination of his injury and quarantining during the early days of the coronavirus pandemic resulted in Hernandez putting on weight and reaching 220 pounds by August of 2021.
Hernandez has dropped 40 pounds since, and Friday at the Tacoma Dome he finally earned that elusive spot in second day of Mat Classic XXXIII with the opportunity of winning a state title still up for grabs.
Hernandez beat Stanwood’s Mason Ferguson by a 5-2 decision in the Class 3A 182-pound quarterfinals and is set for a Saturday semifinal clash with Mead’s Deklen Agloniga.
“I’m feeling great,” Hernandez said. “Honestly, I just feel happy that I made it on to the semis. It was something I’ve been working hard for.”
Hernandez picked up points in key moments, scoring a take down seconds before the first period ended and another in the second just before he and Ferguson went out of bounds. His final point by escape in the third secured the victory.
“He just stayed solid and stayed confident” Meadowdale coach Josh Knowles said. “He just kept wrestling in any position and bettered his position. It’s just the way he’s acted in the wrestling room all year long. He’s just always competing and always being a leader, and it’s paying off here in the end.”
Hernandez said when he qualified for his first Mat Classic he did it for his older brother who could never quite break through to the state tournament.
This time he’s doing it for someone else.
“Now, I’m trying to take first for myself,” Hernandez said.
Lake Stevens ended Day 1 of Mat Classic within striking distance of first-place Chiawana. The Vikings sat in third place in the team standings with 60 points, 20.5 off the pace set by the Riverhawks and 19 points behind second-place Sunnyside.
The Vikings advanced three wrestlers to the semifinals after they had seven make the quarterfinals.
Senior Wyatt Springer made his way to the final four of the 160-pound weight class with a strong showing, picking up a major decision in the first round and needing just 38 seconds to notch a pin in the quarterfinals.
Sean Sanchez made his way to the semis at 182 pounds with a pin in the opening period of his first-round match and followed it with a victory by major decision.
Sophomore Koen Mattern rounded out Lake Stevens’ semifinalist with back-to-back wins by decision at 220 pounds.
Glacier Peak sophomore Gil Mossburg set himself up for a 138-pound semifinal matchup with Hanford’s Jake Hubby — a former Lake Stevens wrestler — with a victory by decision in the first round and pin at the 1:44 mark of his quarterfinal match.
He’s joined in the semis by teammates Jacob Erickson (220) and Connor Aney (285).
Erickson picked up a second-period pin in his opening match and put on a dominant display while tech falling Rogers’ Matthew Ager in the quarterfinals.
Aney scored a pin in his opening match and battled out a 7-5 decision against Sunnyside’s Mateo Armendariz in the quarterfinals.
The Grizzlies were tied for ninth at the end of Day 1 with 35.5 points.
Stanwood produced the top team showing for local 3A schools during Day 1 while sending two wrestlers to the semifinals.
The Spartans currently sit in sixth in team scoring with 61.5 points but are well behind first-place Mead (136.5 points).
Stanwood juniors Tyler Rhue (126 pounds) and Keaton Mayernik (132) each punched their ticket to the semis within minutes of each other.
Rhue kept his unbeaten season intact with wins by tech fall and decision. Mayernik got through a tense opening match with a 4-2 decision and went on to score a third-period pin in his quarterfinals match.
Alex Rapelje, the 138-pound champ in 2020, showed he’s up for the task of competing for a title at 152 with a first-period pin in his opening match and another pin early in the second period of his quarterfinals bout.
Warriors teammate Alec Rust moved on to the semis at 170 pounds with a pair of victories by decision.
Arlington junior Eric Vogel used a pin and a narrow 3-2 decision in the quarterfinals to give the Eagles their lone semifinalist.
Shorecrest’s Thomas Rhodes (145 pounds) and Shorewood’s Hunter Tibodeau (195) each made their respective semifinals.
Defending 190-pound champion Alivia White needed less than 90 seconds to win both of her matches and move on to the semis, including a 19-second pin in the quarterfinals when White used a hip toss to quickly dispatch her opponent.
Tomahawks teammate Juju Kilroy (130 pounds) also made the semis in her weight class. Kilroy picked her wins by major decision and pinfall.
Cedarcrest’s Abby Varady earned a first-period pinfall in her opening match and then eked out a 2-0 decision in the quarters put herself in contention for a 135-pound title Saturday.
Glacier Peak sophomore Karianne Baldwin advanced to the semis at 125 pounds behind a pair of third-period pins.
Stanwood’s Hailey Rich won a tightly contested 11-10 decision in her first match and then moved on to the semis by scoring a pin with just 2 seconds left in the second period of her quarterfinal match.