EVERETT — A wrestler that loses in the semifinals of a major tournament like Saturday’s 3A Region III event at Everett High School can react to that defeat in one of two ways.
He or she can lose focus and fail to get past it, or flush it and grind through the consolation bracket.
Marysville Pilchuck’s Keith Pablo learned that lesson the hard way last season, finding himself the odd man out in a stacked 160-pound regional bracket, and finished fifth when the top four advanced to state.
After a tough semifinal loss to eventual state champion Mason McDaniel of Edmonds-Woodway, Pablo lost his first consolation match to Ferndale’s Braiden Klimp and kissed Mat Classic goodbye.
That regional bracket ended up producing the state champion (McDaniel), runner-up (Arlington’s Azariah Crew) and sixth-place finisher (Klimp).
“I was upset,” he remembered Saturday after redeeming himself with a runner-up finish at 170 pounds. “I knew I could have beaten that kid (Klimp) but it was hard to get past the loss. It’s all worth it now.”
Pablo eviscerated his first two opponents in first-period pins this weekend before meeting up with top-ranked Zayid Al-Ghani of Southridge in the final.
Just by getting to the title bout, he assured himself of finishing his prep career at Mat Classic, but a regional title would have helped with state seeding.
Pablo held a 4-3 lead over Al-Ghani midway through the second period, when the Suns senior escaped and took Pablo down to assume a 5-4 lead.
In a bold move, Pablo backed himself to be able to take Al-Ghani down and cut the Southridge wrestler, allowing him to escape to begin the third period and making the score 6-4.
“I feel like I can take anyone down, but that kid was a really good wrestler and really strong,” Pablo said. “It didn’t work out today, but I’ll see him at state. It feels really good to be going.”
Invaders from the East?
The WIAA’s decision to pair the three 3A schools in the Mid-Columbia Conference — Kamiakin, Kennewick and Southridge — with those from Wesco for Saturday’s regional was a topic of much discussion among coaches on both sides at Everett High School.
It was tough to ignore the oddity of even calling it a “regional,” since Kennewick is four hours from Everett in good weather, and especially since this week’s snow and ice forced the three regular-season foes to caravan across the state together via Portland in two buses on Thursday. The trip took 8 1/2 hours.
“We drove right through Bonney Lake, which was also hosting a regional,” Kamiakin coach Jordan Anderson said. “I have no clue why the WIAA had us do it, but we just wanted to compete.”
Kamiakin and Southridge combined to win 59 of their 63 matches on Friday, and continued that dominance on Saturday, finishing 1-2 in the team standings well ahead of third-place Everett.
By itself, Kamiakin had seven finalists, four champions and placed 13 wrestlers into the state tournament.
Evanger’s road back
Put in the same position as Keith Pablo was in a year ago — flush a bad semifinal loss or bomb out — Arlington 126-pounder Christian Evanger, chose the former, and will cap his prep career in the Tacoma Dome after placing third on Saturday.
It’s not surprising that he made that choice, since he put off labrum surgery on his left shoulder until after the state tournament to be able to wrestle his senior campaign.
“I was able to just shrug it off. I know that I put in as much work as anyone in here to be able to wrestle this year, and I didn’t want that to go to waste,” Evanger said. “It was the most nervous I’ve been, though. You either get in it or go home.”
LeBron James has The Block. Joe Montana and Dwight Clark have The Catch and John Elway has The Drive.
Stanwood dynamo Mason Phillips put on a show on Saturday, eliciting the first of two audible gasps from the crowd during his 19-4 technical fall of Kamiakin’s Liam Walker in the 145-pound title match with what should forever be known as The Grab.
Anticipating the opening whistle, Phillips reached out a hand and grabbed Walker’s lead foot as quick as a cobra strikes, yanked it toward him and floored the helpless Walker for the first two points of the match, seconds after it began.
“If I see somebody with their foot really close to the line, I might try it,” Phillips said afterward, entirely too matter-of-factly. “You really have to time up the whistle, though.”