The Bears are sending 16 wrestlers — nine of them regional champs — to Mat Classic next weekend. Top-ranked Tahoma cruised to the Class 4A Region II tournament title.
SAMMAMISH — For the Tahoma High School wrestling team, it’s not about the individual. It’s all about the team.
But that doesn’t mean the Bears don’t have some talented individuals. Far from it.
Usually reserved coach Chris Feist wore an ear-to-ear smile all day as top-ranked Tahoma of Maple Valley powered into state with nine individual regional champions and a runaway victory on Saturday in the Class 4A Region II tournament at Skyline High School.
The Bears posted 346 points to finish well ahead of runner-up Kentwood’s 206.5 total. Feist’s team-first group put themselves in great position to contend in Class 4A at next weekend’s Mat Classic XXIX in the Tacoma Dome.
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“That mindset, we train these boys to buy into starting when they were little kids,” Feist said. “We have really high expectations for what we want them to do in all areas of their lives.”
Tahoma junior Kione Gill (32-1) provided what was possibly his team’s most impressive victory, a pin in 4:57 over Kennedy Catholic junior Bowen McConville. Gill, who took second at 182 pounds in Class 3A last season, opened a 16-2 lead before sticking the Lancers’ top wrestler, who was second at 195 in 3A in 2016.
“I’m just training 24/7 and I have the best wrestling partners [Dagen Kramer and Gage Dress] around and one of the best coaches around,” said Gill, who transferred from Enumclaw. “It’s a different vibe in that wrestling room. In there, it’s all positive and we’re ready to go to get better every day. It’s about our coach. He does it for us.”
It was the third time Gill pinned McConville in three meetings this season.
“Every level just got 20 times better with my teammates and my coaches,” said Gill, who is a two-time state placer. “It’s unbelievable.”
The Bears pushed through 16 of their 17 wrestlers at regionals to state. The team produced 12 regional finalists, including two all-Bears matchups: Jordan Martinez and Cameron Hanson at 126 and Ryden Fu and Gunner Starren at 145.
Winning regional crowns, in addition to Gill, were Austin Michalski (113), Martinez (126), Nick Whitehead (132), Fu (145), Justin Sipila (152), Gage Dress (182), Dagen Kramer (220) and Nic Carbone (285).
Whitehead improved to 21-0 despite missing some time midseason after a minor knee surgery. Whitehead topped Kent-Meridian’s Gerardo Suarez 9-4 in the 132 final.
“We preach family,” said Feist, who was named Region II Coach of the Year. “There’s no one person in our family bigger than Tahoma wrestling. And that’s all it is. It’s not about the individual. It’s about Tahoma wrestling and this team this year. And, next year, it’s about Tahoma wrestling and that team that year.”
The program, which took third in Class 4A state last season and ninth in 2015, displayed the top-end talent to be recognized as a legitimate state-championship contender next weekend.
• Kentwood senior Blake Capperauld provided the most shocking result of the finals, scoring a pin in 31 seconds over Mount Si’s Mason Marenco in the 170-pound final. Capperauld, ranked No. 10 in Class 4A by WashingtonWrestlingReport.net, upset Marenco, ranked No. 6 at 170 in 4A.
“That guy is better than me,” Capperauld said. “Sometimes it’s not who’s better. Sometimes you just get in a bad spot and can’t get out. I was trying so hard, I just hoped I wouldn’t use all my energy.”
• Stephen Watson of Kentwood scored a 9-5 decision over Issaquah’s Kaleb Solusod in the 160 final, handing the Eagles’ wrestler his first loss in 26 matches.
• Kramer pinned Mount Si’s Brennan Dalgeish in 2:35 in the 220 final. Kramer entered ranked No. 2 and Dalgeish No. 3.
• NPSL wrestlers captured all 14 of the finals. The top four finishers of each weight class moved on to state. Of the 56 state qualifiers, 37 were from NPSL and 19 from KingCo 4A.