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Vester, Cramsey-Behnke place 3rd in state tournament | Wrestling

Oak Harbor
Oak Harbor's Jahleel Vester, shown here winning the district wrestling title, went on to finish third in the state meet.
— image credit: Jim Waller / Whidbey News-Times

Jahleel Vester reached his goal and Amber Cramsey-Behnke earned some revenge at Mat Classic XXVI, the state wrestling tournament, Friday and Saturday, Feb. 21 and 22, at the Tacoma Dome.


The Oak Harbor boys, led by Vester and his brother Jeremy, scored 37 points and tied Ferndale for 18th in the 3A team race. North Central of Spokane won with 108.5 points.


Cramsey-Behnke was the only Wildcat girl who qualified and scored 19 points, putting Oak Harbor 30th out of 99 schools who had girls in the tournament. All Washington schools, regardless of classification, wrestle in the same girls tournament at state, and Warden, a 1A school, won with 104.5 points.


Jahleel Vester, a senior, previously competed in the state meet three times, finishing eighth twice. He said early this season his goal was to complete his career by placing in the top three; he did just that, nabbing third in the 138-pound class.


Sophomore Cramsey-Behnke, who just barely qualified for state by picking up the fourth and final berth out of the regional tournament in the 235-pound class, lost her first match a state and then roared through the consolation bracket to finish third.


Along the way she defeated the girl who stopped her in the first round and two girls who finished ahead of her in the regional meet.


Junior Jeremy Vester finished fourth at 132; juniors Christian Bertram (113) and Mark Johnston (152) and senior Ray Quinday (220) won one of three matches; and senior Jacob Dugin (195) and junior Constant Jackson (285) also competed.


Jahleel Vester, ranked third by the Washington Wrestling Report heading into state, reached the semifinals with a fall (2:59) and 9-0 win. He then lost 11-5 to top-ranked Kenji Yamashita of Vancouver's Mountain View. Yamashita went on to finish second by one point.


Oak Harbor coach Peter Esvelt said the third-place medal is the toughest to get because wrestlers have to bounce back from adversity. Jahleel Vester responded by winning 7-3 in the consolation semifinals and then 3-2 over fourth-ranked Bryan Wais of North Central in the bout for third and fourth place.


"Jahleel wrestled with the same intensity that he had brought to all of his previous matches," Esvelt said.


Assistant coach Joe Brannon said, "To his (Jahleel's) credit, he gathered himself and refocused after the loss in the semis. He finished his career with a perfect match."


Unranked Cramsey-Behnke started state by being pinned (5:32) by fourth-ranked Andrea Contreras of Warden. Undeterred, she pinned her next opponent in 23 seconds and then defeated Highline's Sophia Munoz, who finished ahead of her at regional, 4-0.


Next came another first-round fall (1:49), setting up a rematch with Contreras. This time Cramsey-Behnke prevailed, winning by pin (3:33).


In the match for third and fourth, the Wildcat faced Sehome's sixth-ranked Lisa Hernandez, who pinned Cramsey-Behnke on the way to the regional title a week earlier. Cramsey-Behnke again got vengeance with a 7-3 win.


"For a sophomore girl to take third in state is very promising," Brannon said.


Jeremy Vester started with a 9-2 win, then lost 10-7. He followed with three straight wins to reach the match for third and fourth, where he met Eastside Catholic's Matt Iwicki and lost 8-1. A week earlier, Vester, then ranked sixth, upset the top-ranked Iwicki for the regional title.


Johnston opened with a pin (4:16) then lost by a fall to eventual champion Gunnar Metzger of Hudson's Bay.


Esvelt called Jeremy Vester's and Johnston's weight classes as the "two toughest at state."


Bertram, 8-2, and Quinday, 5-1, picked up wins after a first-round losses.


Constant was medically disqualified with a fever that sent him to the hospital for a checkup, according to Brannon, and couldn't continue after his first match.


"The theme for a lot of the matches that did not go our way boiled down to the luck of the draw," Esvelt said. "We lost tough matches to very tough wrestlers, and had we been in a different spot in the bracket, who knows."


Esvelt liked how his wrestlers weren't intimidated by the bright lights of state, wrestled aggressively and supported their teammates.


"Overall, I was proud of my seniors, Jahleel Vester, Quinday, and Dugin," Esvelt said. "I thought they wrestled well and represented Oak Harbor wrestling with pride.


"Our juniors and one sophomore wrestled well, and have just enough unfinished business to drive them this off-season in preparation for their senior year."


Oak Harbor results at state:


Amber Cramsey-Behnke, 235 pounds (third place): Lost by pin, 5:32; won by pin, :23; won 4-0; won by pin, 1:49; won by pin, 3:33; won 7-3.


Christian Bertram, 113: lost by pin, 2:55; won 8-2; lost 5-4.


Jeremy Vester, 132 (fourth): won 9-2; lost 10-7; won 8-1; won 6-5; won by pin, 5:38; lost 8-1.


Jahleel Vester, 138 (third): won by pin, 2:59; won 9-0; lost 11-5; won 7-3; won 3-2.


Mark Johnston, 152: won by pin, 4:16; lost by pin, :19; lost 12-3.


Jacob Dugin, 195: lost by pin, 5:30; lost by pin, 3:31.


Ray Quinday, 220: lost by pin, 1:40; won 5-1; lost by pin, :38.


Jackson Constant, 285: lost by pin, :26; lost by medical disqualification.

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