TACOMA — The Port Townsend High School wrestlers spend most weekends together each winter, traveling to invitational events. Last weekend was one of the best in school history.
Four Redhawks earned top-eight medals during the Mat Classic XXXI state tournament at the Tacoma Dome, doubling the best single-season output in school history.
“We were looking up at the walls in our (practice) room the other day, and we could only find a year when we had two medalists,” coach Steve Grimm said.
Junior Dylan Tracer placed third at 182 pounds, senior Gabe Petrick finished fifth at 160 and Chimacum sophomore Kyle Caldwell was eighth at 195. Port Townsend senior Brenna Franklin added a sixth-place medal in the girls 170 division.
Saturday was a grind. Some wrestlers had as many as five matches that day because the tournament was expanded to 32-man brackets this year. Snow wiped out regional tournaments earlier in the month, forcing event organizers to alter the normal 16-man state-meet brackets.
Tracer said the weekend travel helped the team grow to be close-knit.
“It’s going to be hard to beat in the future, too,” he said. “This is a good group.”
Tracer goes 5-1
Dominant with pins in each of his first three rounds across two days, Tracer cruised into the state semifinals Saturday against top-ranked John Knight, a senior from Colville. Thirty seconds into the match, Tracer took a shot at Knight’s legs, but Knight countered and quickly scored a two-point takedown. He rolled Tracer into a cradle, finished with a pin in just 41 seconds, and wound up winning his second straight championship.
Tracer, ranked fourth going into the tournament, shook it off.
“It just shows I have a lot of room to grow,” he said.
Tracer’s pins were just as quick, as he stopped Josh Isaacson of Mount Baker in 1:07, Kyle Yorgesen of Wahluke in 53 seconds and Joey Allen of Colville in 50 seconds.
After his loss to Knight, Tracer turned his attention to Jed Cupp of Newport. He used a quick level change to get a takedown 14 seconds into the match and chose to keep both wrestlers standing to start the second round. The strategy paid off as he grabbed a double-leg takedown with 50 seconds remaining and worked himself into a position to finish the pin just four seconds before the end of the round.
That set up his third-place match with Shane Queen, a senior from Forks, who led Tracer earlier this season before Tracer finished him with a pin.
This time, Tracer struck first with a takedown and a two-point near-fall with 25 seconds left in the first round. Queen escaped but trailed 4-1 going into the second, and Tracer again chose to have both wrestlers start the round on their feet.
A minute in, Tracer got a second takedown. And when he started from the bottom position to start the final round, he picked up two more points with a reversal to finish Queen, 8-1.
Tracer credited the Redhawks’ senior class — Petrick, in particular — for helping him to his third-place finish.
“He’s a lot more technical than I was,” Tracer said of Petrick, his training partner. “Last season, I was a muscley meathead who tried to go through everything. Through him and other seniors on the team throughout my high school career, I’ve been able to add more tools to my toolbox.”
Unlike many others, Tracer wasn’t fatigued since many of his matches ended quickly.
“I wish I could go out there for a few more rounds,” he said. “I feel like I’m at my peak right now for this year.”
It’s been a long ride for Petrick, who said he wasn’t very good four years ago.
When it came to the postseason, it was a series of stair steps. When he was a freshman, he went two-and-out at the district level. As a sophomore, he went two-and-out at regionals. He reached the state tournament last year but again went 0-2.
On Friday, he was confident he would take the next step, and he won his first two matches — the first by pin, the second with a 5-0 decision — to reach the quarterfinals.
Part of that success came from being comfortable with his capabilities.
“I’ve never had a lot of explosive strength to pick people up and move them around,” Petrick said. “So I’ve always had to work on the tie-ups and close-quarters situations.”
He bounced back from a loss to Lorenzo Myrick of Royal to face Mikey Madrigales, a senior from Warden, in a loser-out match.
And Petrick got on the board within the first 30 seconds with a takedown. Madrigales started the second round in the bottom position, and Petrick earned two near-fall points just before Madrigales escaped with 41 seconds left in the period. Moments later, Petrick scored another takedown for a 6-1 advantage.
Petrick reversed position early in the third round and took Madrigales down again following a brief escape for a 10-2 major decision that guaranteed Petrick a medal.
“That was definitely the match of the day,” he said. “That one determined whether my dreams (of a state medal) would come true or not.”
Petrick went on to beat Forks freshman Hayden Queen before Chelan senior Erik Alcala pinned him in 38 seconds to send him to the fifth-place bout.
Petrick needed just 13 seconds to finish senior Brady Cummings of Hoquiam.
“It was my last match ever,” Petrick said. “I had my plan, knew what I was looking for, and went out and did it.”
Petrick executed a fireman’s throw, which he called his “signature move,” to get Cummings to the mat in 11 seconds. Cummings went straight to his back, and the referee slapped the mat moments later.
Franklin second girl to medal
Unlike the boys, who compete only against opponents from similar-sized schools, the girls wrestle in an all-classification bracket. That didn’t seem to matter to Franklin, who needed just 17 seconds to pin Hailey Shamblin of 4A Federal Way and 40 seconds to defeat Thalia Cook of 2A Aberdeen, both on Friday, to jump into the quarterfinals.
That’s when it got a little tricky for the third-ranked wrestler, who wound up facing four others ranked in the top 10.
“I felt a little pressure (Saturday),” Franklin said, “and I don’t usually do well under pressure. I kind of psyche myself out.”
Franklin got the early edge against Alexia Asselin of 4A Kennewick with a double-leg takedown a little more than a minute into the match. But the returning state placer escaped and scored a takedown of her own, then recorded three near-fall points just before the buzzer.
Asselin got another takedown midway through the second round, and Franklin wasn’t able to counter. She was pinned in 2:48.
As Franklin faced a loser-out situation, she had to regroup.
“I was telling myself, ‘You have to do it. You’re going to win. It’s fine,’” she said.
Franklin was right. She pinned Connell sophomore Rosa Saucedo Rami in 1:20 and was greeted as she came off the mat by Port Townsend High graduate Chloe Rogers, the two-time state runner-up who is the only other girl in school history to earn a medal.
“We met my freshman year,” Franklin said. “She came back (from college) during winter break and beat me up a lot. She’s why I was able to do this.”
Franklin said her match of the day was against Puyallup senior Tanya Simora.
“She pinned me in the first round in the Aberdeen tournament,” Franklin said. “I knew I’d see her again, and I knew I could beat her.”
Franklin got her revenge at the 2:17 mark after she reversed position and came out on top in a scramble. She led 6-2 before she earned the pin.
Franklin dropped her final two matches by pin, first to Alex Brulotte of Ferndale and then to Alycia Pidgeon of Snohomish. Brulotte beat Asselin by technical fall to place third.
“I rounded off my career with 20 medals,” Franklin said.
After he split his first two matches on Friday, Caldwell had quite a climb. But he pinned Elma freshman Donovan Bishop in 2:33 to reach the second day of the tournament, and two straight consolation wins on Saturday got him into medal contention.
His 10-8 decision against Zillah senior Fermin Martinez was critical. Martinez was a returning state placer ranked sixth going into the tournament; Caldwell was ranked seventh.
Caldwell scored a quick takedown eight seconds into the match, although Martinez briefly escaped. Just before the end of the first, Caldwell got another takedown plus two near-fall points for a 6-1 lead.
Calwell chose to have both wrestlers start on their feet to begin the second round, and Martinez was called for a stalling warning about a minute in. Then he nearly ended the match with a takedown of Caldwell and a three-point near fall. Caldwell managed to escape and led 7-6 going into the final round.
Martinez started from the bottom and quickly escaped to tie the match, but he was called for a second stalling warning with 1:18 left that led to a point for Caldwell, who followed with a takedown with 40 seconds remaining. Martinez got away to pull within two, but Caldwell sprawled on a last-ditch takedown attempt to solidify a medal opportunity.
“That was probably one of my best matches of the year,” Caldwell said. “The most technical for sure.
“I finally got into my stride.”
Montesano senior Kai Olson pinned Caldwell to send him to the seventh-place match, and Deer Park senior Lucas Keller took that spot when he pinned Caldwell.
But the Chimacum sophomore has a lot to look forward to.
“I’m really confident for next year,” Caldwell said. “I plan on getting to the finals. Everybody above me is a senior except for one junior.”
Blue gets to second day
Port Townsend junior Wes Blue was a fifth wrestler to reach the second day of the tournament. The 220-pounder bounced back from a first-round loss on Friday to pin Chelan sophomore Adrian Martinez in 1:16. That set up a loser-out showdown with Zillah senior Brendan Rubalcaba.
After a scoreless first period, Blue started the second round in the top position and got a three-point near fall before Rubalcaba escaped. Rubalcaba started the third round in the bottom position and got away with 55 seconds left to pull within 3-2.
The match reset when both wrestlers went out of bounds with 26 seconds left. As time ticked away, Rubalcaba picked up Blue and appeared to have his hips in position for a takedown before Blue twisted in midair and gained control with two seconds to go for a 5-2 victory.
“I remembered this is the match that will determine whether I go to the (second day) or not,” Blue said. “I didn’t want to go home that day.”
Blue said he didn’t think he was in trouble when Rubalcaba had him in the air.
“You can feel him,” he said. “I naturally just twisted. I knew I was ahead, but I didn’t know it was 3-2 at the time.
“I definitely felt relief because I knew I was going to get to wrestle on the second day,” Blue added. “I just wanted to keep my composure, win or lose.”
Blue’s first match Saturday was a tough one as he was eliminated by Colville senior Ryder Goff, the second-ranked wrestler who dropped to the consolation bracket. It was the second of Goff’s six consecutive wins to place third.
Getting to know the Dome
Four other Port Townsend wrestlers gained state experience, and some won matches against older, more experienced opponents.
Freshman Logan Massie had a tough draw with top-ranked senior Luke Weaver, a defending state champion from Sultan. Massie took him to the third round before he was pinned in 4:41, and then he had to face another senior, Erik Titus of Castle Rock, in the consolation round. Massie survived a hard-fought 2-1 decision before his tournament came to an end against fellow freshman Lionel Castro of Granger. Weaver finished third and Castro sixth.
Odin Smith was the other Port Townsend wrestler to win a match. The sophomore 152-pounder lost his first-round match to Mount Baker senior Skyler Isaacson, who wound up fifth, but he pinned Chelan sophomore Skye Malone in 2:46. Elma junior Isaiah O’Farrill ended Smith’s season with a pin in 2:03.
Port Townsend juniors Carter Swartout and Ian Linn-Glasgow also got experience as each went 0-2.
The Redhawks finished 25th as a team with 48 points, and Caldwell scored 12 points (42nd) as the lone Chimacum wrestler. Franklin’s victories led to 17 team points for the Port Townsend girls (63rd as a team).
Colville scored 259 points to win the 1A team championship, while Granger placed second (223) and Forks third (211.5). Union, a 4A school from Camas, won the girls championship with 135 points.