Girls wrestling continues to grow
One of the state’s fastest-growing sports, girls wrestling continues to increase in popularity and participation in Snohomish County, and administrators are having to make tough decisions to adjust.
Six female wrestlers competed for Cascade High School during the 2017-18 season, but that number jumped to 24 to begin this season.
Bill Meyer was hired as the program’s girls coach, but instead of hiring a girls coach to lead the the eight female wrestlers at Jackson High School, the Everett School District decided to let the Jackson wrestlers compete as part of a Cascade-Jackson combined team this season and for the foreseeable future.
“There weren’t enough girls to justify having a paid coach at Jackson, and our new boys coach (Phil Brandstetter) teaches at Jackson, so he volunteered to bring the girls over to Cascade three times a week for practice,” Meyer said. “Individuals will compete wearing a Jackson or Cascade uniform, but they’ll earn team points for a Cascade-Jackson combined team.”
The merging of the programs had to be approved by Everett School District athletic director Robert Polk and the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association (WIAA), Meyer said.
Cascade’s Nadia Diaz-Luna and Claudia Rojas-Guzman are the best Bruins’ bets to reach Mat Classic this season, and Jackson’s Maggie Telford qualified for state at 100 pounds last year.
MP heads stacked Wesco 3A North
Despite its relatively small size (seven teams) Wesco 3A North can stake a claim to being the toughest 3A conference in the state from top to bottom.
“It is such a battle every time out,” Everett coach Brien Elliott said of the conference. “There are so many good teams and everyone continues to get better. It’s really concerning as a coach because you can’t really get an edge because of how well all our coaches coach their kids. It is really difficult to point to a front-runner out there.”
Marysville Pilchuck, which won the conference title in undefeated fashion last season, may have a slight leg up on Everett and Snohomish in 2018-19. Craig Iversen’s team is loaded, with returners Tanner Lauzon (126 pounds), Austin Davis (132), Isaiah Galindo (145), Cayden White (182) and Jeff Roullier (285) leading the way.
Stanwood, Oak Harbor and Marysville Getchell all have talented wrestlers who can beat anyone on the right night, and the depth of those programs is improving each week.
New regional alignments
The new alignments for the Feb. 9 regional tournaments at which area wrestlers qualify for state will be quite different from last season.
Wesco 4A teams will combine with the South Puget Sound League’s 4A squads at Emerald Ridge High School in Puyallup after matching up with the North Puget Sound League’s Olympic Division the past two seasons.
The SPSL presents a daunting batch of foes for area wrestlers, with defending 4A team champion South Kitsap headlining a group of four squads (Curtis, Graham-Kapowsin, Puyallup) that finished in the top 15 at state last year.
In each of the past two seasons the Wesco 3A North and South combined with the Mid-Columbia League’s three 3A teams (Kennewick, Kamiakin and Southridge) for regionals.
This year, the Wesco North and South squads will be separated for regionals, denying fans the chance to see the area’s top wrestlers square off with state berths on the line.
The 3A North will be paired with the Pierce County League and the Northwest Conference’s two 3A programs — Ferndale and Squalicum — at a regional tournament hosted by Snohomish. Bonney Lake and Bethel of the PCL placed second and fifth, respectively, in the 3A team standings at state last season.
The 3A South travels to Inglemoor to face KingCo and the Greater St. Helens League’s 3A programs, of which Kelso is the headliner. The Hilanders placed fourth at state last season.
“If we stayed together for regionals, the only leagues we could pair with to get us to four spots to state would have been the MCL or the Greater Spokane league, with four teams in each,” Edmonds-Woodway coach Brian Alfi said. “If we stayed together, we would likely have had to take our turn at traveling over the mountains.”
Wesco’s three 2A schools (Mountlake Terrace, Archbishop Murphy, Cedarcrest) will join with the Evergreen 2A League and the Greater St. Helens’ 2A schools at a regional in Washougal.
The North Sound Conference will be at Meridian High School for regionals along with the 1A teams from the Northwest Conference, Nisqually Conference and the Olympic Conference.
Darrington heads to Adna for the Region 1/2/3/4 tournament, and all of the area’s girls wrestlers will compete at the Northwest Regional hosted by Sedro-Woolley.
Grayson LeCompte, sr., 126, Edmonds-Woodway. LeCompte placed third at Mat Classic at 126 pounds last season, and placed seventh at the El Cajon Invitational in San Diego last weekend. “He’s got a style all his own,” Alfi said. “He wrestled a ton this offseason jumping around to every club in the area looking for practice partners and going as far as Burlington two nights a week from Edmonds. He’s tough in all three positions on the mat and has the complete package you’re looking for.”
Isaiah Galindo, sr., 145, Marysville Pilchuck. Galindo came out of nowhere to reach the 3A state semifinals last season, and has given himself over to the sport this offseason. “He was pretty raw last year, but he did what you always hope for in wrestling his best at the end of the season,” Iversen said. “He got pretty hungry in the offseason and has become a leader in our room. He’s always been very athletic but he’s added some more diversity in his attacks.”
Hayden Long, soph., 152, Granite Falls. Long went 1-2 at his first state tournament in 2017-18, but the valuable experience he gained competing with Team Washington at the Cadet National Duals last summer in Spokane, along with the Tigers’ drop to Class 1A this season, could help him become Granite Falls’ first-ever state champion. “He just has so much mat experience for a sophomore. He’s probably wrestled 200 competitive matches in the last year,” Granite Falls coach Tony Helgeson said. “He’s equally adept in all positions and is a great scrambler. He knows his body position at all times, and usually comes out on top when he gets in weird situations. He’s most dominant on his feet, and that comes with all of his freestyle experience.”
Ethan Nguyen, 106, Edmonds-Woodway. Nguyen reached the quarterfinals at the El Cajon Invitational and has helped Alfi and the Warriors reload this season. “He’s super explosive and a different type of athlete when he’s competing. He works hard in practice competing on every go. Ethan has the ability to score points in a hurry when he’s wrestling,” Alfi said.
Wyatt Springer, 132, Lake Stevens. Springer was the only incoming freshman to be selected to represent Washington at the Cadet National Duals last June in Spokane and held his own, going 4-6 combined in freestyle and Greco-Roman competitions. He followed that up with a 4-2 showing in Fargo at the Cadet Nationals in July and won three consolation matches in his first Tri-State appearance last weekend after an opening-round defeat. Springer, whose father, Justin, was a coach for Team Washington at Cadet Duals and a decorated wrestler in his own right, certainly has the pedigree to make an immediate impact for the Vikings.
Alex Rapelje, 138, Edmonds-Woodway. Rapelje placed seventh at the El Cajon Invitational last weekend, and has been a fixture in Edmonds’ club setup for years. “Alex is a former chess player who is calm and calculated,” Alfi said. “He will wear you out and be very specific in each of his moves. He has the ability to stay in control and win a 6-1 match that feels like a blowout with how tough he is in each position.”