Oak Harbor’s Maria Dailey placed a surprising sixth at the state girls wrestling tournament Friday and Saturday, Feb. 21 and 22, at the Tacoma Dome.
While Dailey ended her career on a special note, Oak Harbor senior Jamal Graham’s career ended with injury and controversy.
Turning out for wrestling for the first time this winter, Dailey improved throughout the season. She finished fourth in the 155-pound class at the sub-regional tournament, earning the final spot into the regional meet. There she placed second, stunning a highly ranked opponent along the way.
At state, the unranked Dailey pulled off several more upsets.
She opened the tournament by pinning 12th-ranked Amaya Vili of Kentlake at the 1:25 mark.
Dailey followed that match with a 12-10 sudden-victory overtime win over Curtis’ Katrina Wangen. Wangen, a three-time state veteran who placed seventh in 2019, entered the match with a 50-3 record and ranked third in the state.
In the semifinals, Dailey lost by a fall (2:32) to top-ranked Shannon Workinger of Quincy.
Then came two close losses. Second-ranked Jennifer Tongi of Federal Way, who had a 47-4 record, nipped Dailey 5-3, and then sixth-ranked Celeste Zinn of Lakes edged Dailey 2-0 in the match for fifth and sixth places.
Dailey is the first first-year wrestler of longtime coach Brian Farmer’s career to qualify for state, according to assistant Erin Locke.
“Maria is strong, she pushes hard to the finish and she doesn’t give up,” Locke said. “She will go in, work hard, and end up beating No. 1 seeds and ranked girls in overtime. Maria is all guts; she’s brave and goes forward with energy even when she doesn’t feel like it.”
Farmer and Locke said it was a privilege coaching Dailey this year.
“She is coachable, hard-working and one-of-a-kind.” Locke added. “We are grateful she was bold enough to turn out for wrestling her senior year, and we’re looking forward to seeing what she continues to accomplish.”
Dailey scored 9 team points for Oak Harbor, and the Wildcats finished tied for 57th out of 95 schools. The girls tournament includes schools from all classifications.
Graham tallied 4 team points for the Oak Harbor boys, and the Wildcats were 45th out of 61 schools in the 3A tournament.
It appeared for a time that Graham, wrestling at 132 pounds, was going to finish among the top six at state as well.
Ninth-ranked Graham started the tournament by pinning Kyle Hohman of Eastside Catholic at 3:02, setting up a match with top-ranked Noah Messman of Mountain View.
With a minute left in the match, Messman was leading when he used an illegal hold that injured Graham. Since Graham was unable to continue, he was awarded the win and advanced to the semifinals.
The injury forced Graham out of the tournament. Even by defaulting his next two matches, he would still medal, taking sixth.
The Mountain View coach protested the decision, and the tournament committee ruled that the mat official made a mistake and that the illegal hold was not the cause of Graham’s injury. Messman was declared the winner and went on to win the state title.
Oak Harbor coach Larry Falcon was not happy with the decision but said he couldn’t have been prouder of Graham’s reaction.
“He said to me, ‘Coach, you didn’t teach us to win that way,’” Falcon said.
Falcon, following the philosophy of his predecessors, emphasizes positive qualities such as sportsmanship and integrity in his program. He sees wrestling as a way to teach life lessons.
Graham told Falcon, “I am going to be illegally cross-faced in life, and I will be able to pick myself up when that happens.”
Graham’s response, Falcon said, “reinforces what we teach.”
Graham’s goal going into the tournament was to reach the award’s podium (finish among the top eight).
“We always tell the kids that each match is actually two matches, the physical one and the sportsmanship one,” Falcons said. The staff stresses that Oak Harbor wrestlers are always going to win the sportsmanship match.
Wrestling is just a stepping stone in life, Falcon added.