The veteran wrestler has placed at state three times. He faces a tough path to finish on top.

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Nick Whitehead just wants to see it through and finish the job. Not just for himself, but for his family.

The senior wrestler for Tahoma High School would like nothing more than to end his stellar four-year Bears’ career with that elusive storybook state-title finish.

After taking second place at 126 pounds in Class 4A last season as a junior, first would be fitting. The dedicated and hard-working Whitehead was fifth at 120 as a sophomore and fifth at 113 in as a freshman.

His brother, Tim, rounded out his fine Tahoma career with a pair of seconds at 113 as a junior in 2012 and at 120 as a senior in 2013. He lost a tough 4-2 decision to Pasco’s Timmy Martinez as a senior.

“I remember in sixth and seventh grade [being around the team] and I was like one of the little brothers of the wrestling team,” Nick recalled. “They all kind of knew me. I watched a lot of them. When my brother was in high school, a lot of them were really mean and really aggressive wrestlers.

“That really struck me as that’s how the good guys are, so I started to become more like that. That also helped with my pinning.”

The loss his brother suffered as a senior resonated with young Nick: “Both years, it was really heartbreaking. It was great to see him with that accomplishment, but it was hard to see him lose at that level when he’s come so far.”

Nick wants to do what his brother couldn’t and it shows in his unwavering commitment.

“It kind of just made me want it that much more,” said Nick, noting that he comes from a family of wrestlers, following in the footsteps of his father Greg, his uncle, his brother and his cousin (Levi Johnson of Squalicum, who was second at 152 in Class 2A in 2009) in the sport.

The Bears’ all-time career leader with 87 pins and a record of 112-16 after starting this season 9-0, he wants to become the first member of the family to win a state crown.

“He’s a workhorse,” Tahoma coach Chris Feist said. “We put a pretty rigorous summer schedule together for our kids. There’s a small group of kids who hit every event, and when they do that, they can get upwards of 45 matches in during a five-week period [from end of June to late July].

“Nick’s one of them.”

With a pace that’s always fast and furious, Whitehead is used to taking out opponents with pins.

“It’s his mindset,” Feist said. “[The style] speaks volumes to how he attacks life. The ultimate thing you can do as a wrestler is to get a pin.”

Whitehead is ranked No. 2 at 138 pounds in Class 4A, but Tahoma coach Feist said he’ll likely focus on 132 in the postseason and that he’ll mostly will wrestle at 138 in dual meets to help the Bears’ lineup.

At 132 in Class 4A, Whitehead could eventually face the likes of a couple of state runner-ups in Moses Lake senior Nick Hara and Sunnyside senior Elias Romero.

His coach feels he’ll be ready for the challenges of a tough road.

“There’s a noticeable difference in his level of focus and attention to detail,” Feist said. “What I mean by that is whenever we’re demonstrating a move or showing a new drill, and with 2 ½ hours of a hard practice, it’s difficult to keep your focus and attention level up that whole time.

“And every time I make eye contact with Nick, he’s laser-beamed into whatever we are talking about drilling and demonstrating. It’s just a different level of attention to detail. He’s always been at a high level, but I’ve seen him take to that next level this year.”

Friday and Saturday, Whitehead and the Bears test their mettle at the 45th Tri-State Wrestling Tournament in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, at North Idaho College.

“We’ll find out a lot after Tri-State and a couple of the other bigger tournaments,” Feist said. “We will find out a lot after the first of the year.”

Whitehead faces the possible matchup at Tri-State against three-time state champion Clai Quintanilla of North Central in Spokane. Quintanilla, the state champ at 126 in 3A last season, is ranked No. 1 at 132 in the all-classification rankings put out by WashingtonWrestlingReport.net, one spot ahead of Whitehead.

Whitehead suffered a 10-6 loss to senior Bryson Beard of Central Valley of Spokane in the 126 final last season. There’s a possibility Whitehead could face Beard’s younger brother, Bridger, at either 132 or 138 in pursuit of that state title.

Bridger Beard is ranked No. 1 ahead of Whitehead at 138 in Class 4A, according to the rankings. Beard was second at 132 last season.

The path doesn’t appear easy for Whitehead to build on last season’s second-place state finish and two prior fifth-place showings.

“I’ve thought he’d have the opportunity and the ability to win a state title since he’s been a freshman,” Feist said. “Postseason is just a different type of animal and you run into the best guys and you have to have your best two days in February [at Mat Classic] for it to all come together. He’s wrestled at a high level since he’s come into our program.

Marquee matches upcoming

Many local teams, including top-ranked 4A  Tahoma, will travel to North Idaho College for Friday and Saturday action at the 45th Tri-State Wrestling Tournament, which annually attracts the top wrestlers in the Pacific Northwest to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.

The Lindbergh Invitational takes place on Saturday, beginning at 10 a.m. with top teams Arlington (No. 4 3A) and Curtis (No. 2 in 4A) taking part in the event at the Renton school.

Nathan Hale hosts the Barry Knott Invitational on Saturday.

Jackson (6-0) travels to Mariner (5-0) on Thursday at 7 p.m. in a key WesCo 4A matchup.

Top targets

Puyallup’s Josh Franich, the Class 4A state champion at 132 pounds last season, won the 145 class at Saturday’s Wilfong Classic. Franich posted three pins in a combined 9 minutes, 21 seconds with his fastest in 1:41.

Big performances

Curtis outlasted Tahoma 37-28 to claim the team title in Saturday’s 37th Olympic Duals at the Kitsap Sun Pavilion.

Peninsula claimed the top spot in Saturday’s Hurricane Harris Invitational at Decatur High School, posing 171.5 points to edge Lincoln of Tacoma 159.5. Decatur was third at 124.

Auburn Riverside took second to Sunnyside in the 14th Larry Brown Invite on Saturday.

Bethel won the 2016 Wilfong Classic with 231 points to Orting’s 195. Host Puyallup was third at 181.5 and Sultan fourth 159.5.

Preseason team and individual rankings

All classifications page on Washington Wrestling Report.

The high school results page on Washington Wrestling Report.

Also check out results on trackwrestling.com.