The Oak Harbor wrestling team senior captains came through when it counted the most.
Led by Brent Thompson’s first-place finish and Jon Garcia’s second-place, the Wildcats placed sixth out of 24 squads in the fiercely competitive Region 1 wrestling tournament last weekend at Snohomish High School. In all, four Cat wrestlers will be making the trip south to Tacoma for the Mat Classic which begins Friday morning.
“It’s exciting that we’re taking four kids,” said head coach Brian Farmer. “I thought that we wrestled really well, and getting sixth out of 24 teams in the toughest region in the state is something to be proud of.”
Thompson, who won the North sub-regional the previous weekend in the 145-pound weight class, took gold again by knocking off South Kitsap’s Pat Kelly 9-3 in the regional final.
“Brent did a super job,” said Farmer. “He was under the weather all week but he wrestled well throughout the tourney. He has earned the right to be the No. 1 seed from our region.”
Thompson, who went to to the Mat Classic last year as a junior, was ready before his championship match.
“I felt really confident before the match,” he said. “My head was in the right place. As I toed the line I knew I was going to win.”
Thompson will open the Mat Classic by facing senior John Dasbach of Central Valley (Spokane) in the first round.
“I just have to go out there and do my best,” he said. “No matter what the outcome is, if I do my best I can hold my head up high.”
Garcia’s run to the finals might have been a shocker to some, but not to him and his team. The 119-pound senior was matched up with Lake Stevens’ Ty Human in the semifinals. Human, a junior who has placed at state two straight years, beat Garcia 8-2 in the regular season. After that match Farmer promised that Garcia would wrestle the long and lanky Human differently if they faced off again.
“We decided to go with both of them up (in the neutral position) and it worked out for us,” he said. “Jon worked really hard.”
Everyone besides the Oak Harbor contingent expected Human to meet Cascade’s Tony Kubec in the final. The front of The Everett Herald’s Saturday sports section was splashed with the headline “If all goes well, Human wrestles Kubec in rematch.”
“You have to respect everyone at regionals,” said Garcia. “I think he was looking past me.”
Oak Harbor assistant coach Bruce Biddle used The Herald article to loosen Garcia up.
“We were reading the story before the match and as Jon was going onto the mat I looked at him and said, ‘Hey Jon, he’s only human’. Jon just looked at me and rolled his eyes.”
After a 0-0 first period, Garcia caught Human in the second, scoring a takedown and a nearfall. Garcia led 6-0 after two periods and Human couldn’t recover.
“I knew that I had to get a lot of points,” said Garcia about the bout. “I knew that normal shots wouldn’t work so I just had to go for it.”
Garcia, who went 1-2 at State last year, was pinned by the ultra-tough Kubec in the final, but Farmer believes that he can cause some damage in the Tacoma Dome this weekend.
“Jon is so quick and tough on his feet that he’ll be a force to be reckoned with at state.”
Senior Chris Whiteman picked up a third-place finish in the 215-pound weight class, defeating Lake Stevens’ Matt Leonard 8-2 in the third/fourth-place match. After losing to Stanwood’s Matt Bear in the semifinals, Whiteman worked his way back through the consolation bracket.
“Chris wrestled really well,” said Farmer. “He had to come through the back to get in, but he is back on track. Chris is ready to go.”
Perhaps the most pleasant surprise was the advancement of sophomore Patrick O’Brien in the 171-pound weight class. Like Whiteman, O’Brien worked his way back through the consolation bracket. Like Garcia, O’Brien gained a bit of revenge against a Lake Stevens wrestler who beat him in the regular season, pinning the Vikings’ Mitch Canham in the consolation bracket.
“Patrick did a fabulous job for a sophomore,” said Farmer. “He pinned the kid from Lake Stevens and he pinned a kid from Olympic to get back in through the consolation round.”
Heavyweight Sean Hogan placed fifth at Snohomish and will go to Tacoma as an alternate ready to take a spot in the tourney if anyone from Region 1 can’t go.
The two-time defending 3A state champion Lake Stevens Vikings took first at the Regionals with 161.5 points. Central Kitsap placed second, scoring 151.5 points. Oak Harbor totalled 101 points.
The Mat Classic begins Friday morning at 11 at the Tacoma Dome. Farmer stressed that once it starts, anyone on the mats has a shot at winning.
“I’ve always been a believer that there are no upsets at state,” he said. “These are the top 16 guys and anyone has a chance to win.”