PUYALLUP – Cruz Velasquez has envisioned himself as a state wrestling champion all season.
“I’m taking it all,” the Tahoma High School senior said after winning the 126-pound title at the Class 4A Region III tournament Saturday at Emerald Ridge.
Velasquez, who placed fourth at state as a sophomore and third last season, said he believes his team can finish on top, too. But, to be honest, he had to come around on that idea.
“At the beginning of the year, I thought we were maybe a top-five team,” he said. “But I’ve grown to have a lot of faith.”
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Coach Chris Feist shares that faith, especially after the Bears’ impressive performance Saturday. They cruised to the team title with 206.5 points (Beamer was a distant second with 125) and qualified 10 wrestlers to the Mat Classic XXVI next weekend at the Tacoma Dome.
“We’re on track,” Feist said. “I feel good about the way our kids are wrestling.”
The Bears won the 4A state title in 2012 and were second to Lake Stevens last year.
Velasquez now is a three-time regional champ and was joined atop the podium Saturday by teammates Nick Whitehead (113 pounds), Justin Weiding (145) and Tucker Mjelde (160).
Tahoma caught a break when junior Adam Hokenson was reinstated in the tournament at 182 after officials originally ejected him for what they considered “flagrant misconduct” during his semifinal match against Bethel’s Eli TeuTeu. Hokenson was on his back and officials ruled he intentionally gouged TeuTeu in the eye.
Feist appealed to the tournament committee, claiming the gouge was accidental, and the ruling was ultimately reversed.
“I don’t think he did it on purpose,” the coach said. “He’s a good boy and he works hard.”
Hokenson came back to finish third, pinning his next opponent and winning his final match by default.
Kentwood’s run of bad luck continued when sophomore Austin Duncan suffered an apparent dislocated left elbow five seconds into the final period of his 220-pound semifinal match. He and Federal Way’s Andrzej Hughes-Murray were tied 6-6 and he was taken from the gym on a stretcher.
Duncan was the SPSL North champion.
The Conquerors lost another potential state qualifier earlier in the week when junior Walker Meyers, who placed sixth at state at 120 last season and was the sub-regional runner-up at 126 last weekend, suffered a gall bladder attack and had to undergo emergency surgery.
And before the season started, another promising wrestler was sidelined by a serious car accident.
“We’ve had a pretty tough year,” coach Ken Sroka said.
Hughes-Murray, a sophomore, lost in the final to Puyallup senior Matt Voss, the defending state champion who has now won 76 consecutive matches. All but five of his 38 victories this season have been by pin.
• The top four in each weight class qualified for state and the fifth-place finishers still have a shot, wrestling pigtail matches against the No. 5 seeds out of Region I Friday morning for the final berths.
• Bethel, which won the SPSL South subregional, finished fifth Saturday with 85 points. Things started poorly for the Braves when Aaron Chapa, the sub-regional champ at 106, failed to make weight.
• Todd Owens of Kent-Meridian was named the Region III coach of the year.