The Mount Baker junior took up wrestling just before starting high school. Now a junior, she’s won a state and a national title.
Life has slowed down for Cody since the move from Nooksack to Acme.
The prized horse has 20 acres to roam in his new Whatcom County home. It’s just not at the direction of his owner, Emma Bruntil. Nearly three years ago she made an abrupt switch from barrel racing to wrestling, leaving Cody to her mother to ride to keep him in shape.
Nothing changed about Bruntil’s ability to find success, however. This week the junior transfer at Mount Baker will vie for her second straight state wrestling championship at Mat Classic XXIX.
Mat Classic XXIX
When: Friday and Saturday.
Where: At the Tacoma Dome.
Follow along: On Twitter, @TimesPrepsMattM, @aaronlommers and @wiaawa.
Top story lines: Federal Way, led by regional champions Tally Thomas (170) and Mariah Stewart (235), advanced seven wrestlers to state, giving them a strong hand as the Eagles pursue the school’s first state title in girls wrestling. Thomas brings a 27-1 season record into state and Stewart owns a 28-5 record. “We make it a point not to look over anyone or anything,” FW coach Travis Mango said. “We are excited to compete this weekend and to see how well we have prepared ourselves compared to the rest of the state.” … Jefferson senior Jasmine Pleasants will attempt to bookend her fine career with state titles, winning at 112 as a freshman. Pleasants is 18-0 this season with 13 pins and 96-6 with 66 pins for her Raiders’ career. Her sophomore sister, Raisa, will try to build off a third-place state finish at 100 pounds as a freshman. Raisa Pleasants is 19-3 with 13 pins. ... Junior 115-pounder Cameron Guerin of Davis of Yakima shoots for her third consecutive state title, trying to become just the 11th girls wrestler to win three or four state titles. Davis won 110 last season and 115 in 2015.
Top wrestlers: Brenda Reyna, Mount Vernon, Sr. (125, state champ at 115 in 2016); Emma Bruntil, Mount Baker, Jr. (135, state champ at 130 for Nooksack Valley in 2016); Flor Parker-Borrero, Wilson (Tacoma), Jr. (145, two-time defending state champion, state champ at 140 in 2016 and state champ at 135 in 2015); Jasmine Pleasants, Jefferson, Sr. (140, state champ at 112 in 2014, DNP in 2015, 2nd at 130 in 2016); Ally De La Cruz, Kamiak, Jr. (155, 2nd at 145 in 2016, 3rd at 140 in 2015); Abby Lees, Washougal, Sr. (235, 2nd at 170 in 2016, state champ at 155 in 2015, 2nd at 155 in 2014).
Favorites: Federal Way, Yelm, Sunnyside, Washougal, White River.
Last: Goddess Ma’alona-Faletogo, a Jefferson freshman who is legally blind, qualified for state with a 17-11 record with 11 pins at 235 pounds. She is part of the eighth-ranked Raiders’ squad. Ma’alona-Faletogo, born with a rare eye disorder, is a 4.0 GPA student.
Bruntil won her first title at 130 pounds for Nooksack Valley. She’s competing at 135 pounds for Mount Baker, a program that’s produced four girls state champions and has placed second as a team the past two years at state.
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“I was riding horses before I could read or write,” said Bruntil, who’s won titles with Cody at the Interstate Games. “I miss it, but I know I have more of a future in wrestling. I can go back to horses when I’m done with my wrestling career.”
Bruntil’s start with wrestling happened out of boredom. A Nooksack Valley classmate had wrestling practice after a volleyball open gym and Bruntil tagged along and instantly loved the sport.
She participated in every wrestling open mat that summer before her freshman year in high school. Bruntil also began working out twice daily in preparation for her first tryout.
“I like the parts that are different,” Bruntil said of wrestling versus horse racing. “It’s all on me instead of having to rely on something else. Sometimes, you’d be riding great, but your horse is like, ‘Nope, not today.’ I was happy to get away from that a little.”
Now, Bruntil is fully immersed in wrestling where she’s on track to possibly make the Olympic team. She’s a full-time student online so she can travel to national tournaments and train.
Last year Bruntil placed second at the Junior National Championships in North Dakota, was a semifinalist at the world team trials in Texas and won the folkstyle junior national title in Oklahoma. She’s undefeated through the high-school season and will compete a similar club cycle beginning in the spring.
“I was impressed with how quickly she picks up stuff,” said Mount Baker coach Clyde Blockley, who’s watched Bruntil’s progression from afar, only coaching her the past two months. Bruntil mainly trains with Andrew Cook, who’s the women’s coach at Grays Harbor College.
“Emma has never wrestled before, then was sixth at state and the next year, she’s the state champion,” Blockley said. “And she’s developed her own style of wrestling. She goes from one move to another; that’s pretty impressive for a girl that’s only been wrestling two years. I call her style, ‘hard-nose go.’”
Already possessing the work ethic to be a champion, Bruntil credits Puyallup graduate Jordyn Bartelson for the skill level. Bartelson is a four-time state wrestling champion who plays soccer for Western Washington University.
Bruntil first wrestled against Bartelson as a freshman, her first year in the sport.
“I lost to her really bad in the state semis; it wasn’t even close,” Bruntil said. “I wasn’t polished at all. But my sophomore year, I came back and I wrestled her and pinned her in the second period in a tournament in Sedro-Woolley. From then on, I knew I could do it. I knew I could win three titles and I had bigger aspirations after that match because she’s a great wrestler.”
Blockley, in his 10th season coaching girls wrestling, said Bruntil is among the best he’s seen. Yet, he added, there’s always an unknown wrestler that disrupts the field at state.
Kind of like Bruntil the past two years. But she remains confident. She’s watched film on potential opponents and will visualize moves to pin them while soaking in an ice bath the night before the tournament.
“I believe I can win against anyone who’s in front of me,” she said.
If crowned champion, perhaps Cody will get a victory lap.