TACOMA — While the Vikings came back without any championships from the Region III wrestling tournament at Mount Tahoma High School this weekend, they returned owning a little piece of history.
Seven of North’s wrestlers earned entry into the 2007 Mat Classic XVI — that’s near the top number North has sent to state in any given year, NK head coach Jon Cooke said, and the absolute most of this decade.
Additionally, with a third-place regional finish, junior Blythe Peterson became the first NK female wrestler to earn a spot at the state tournament — she’ll be competing in Washington’s first-ever official girls-only state wrestling tournament, also this weekend in Tacoma.
The 1998 Vikings, sent a total of six individuals to the state mat, a year after Brian Bambl earned NK’s most recent state championship. Last year North sent two wrestlers — including one of this year’s seniors Eric Hedin.
“They are a great bunch of kids to begin with, so it’s been quite an honor for me,” Cooke said of the 2006-2007 season. “(The team) has gone from being a few individuals that we expected to do well to being right up there with South and dominating the rest of the (Narrows) League.”
The Vikes, as a team, finished with an 8-1 dual-record this year, capturing second in the Narrows. On Feb. 9, they traveled to the Region III tourney at Mount Tahoma High School for the rights to extend their individual postseasons.
North’s heavy-hitters, 215-pound junior Jim Smith and 285-pound senior Bill Plowman, fought furthest into their respective brackets on the weekend. Each made it into the finals but were dispatched in differing fashions.
In the 215-pound final with a familiar foe, SK’s Matt Foxworthy, Smith took the lead into the final period, expecting a title.
But after amassing the 8-4 lead, Smith was penalized three separate times for stalling in the third period which called for his disqualification. Following a fiery exit after the second-place finish, Smith will likely be looking for revenge at state.
As will Plowman, as he was pinned in the second period of the 285-pound championship by Curtis’ Kalani Terukina. Plowman will be the first NK heavyweight at the state tournament since Bill Eliason in 1992, and he earned the right with a 6:42 overtime pin on Allan Thompson of Rogers.
“That qualifying match — when they win the match that decides they are (or aren’t) going to state — for each and every one of those guys was an exciting thing,” Cooke said. “Those are the highlights.”
After being pinned out of the championship round, Hedin highlighted his way back to the state tournament with two big decisions — 7-1, 11-2 — earning third place in the 189-pound consolation bracket.
After losing by fall in the quarter finals of the championship bracket, Lyle Welsh also earned his way to state with a big decision — 12-2 — over Rogers sophomore Mikey Pewitt. South’s Craig Bell went on to steal third place from Welsh by a count of 6-5.
“I was concerned about them coming out and being worried (about the competition),” Cooke said coming into the tournament. “But they didn’t. They came out confident and wrestled for six minutes.”
Putting full matches together, 10 of North’s 12 wrestlers won their opening bouts.
160-pound junior Anthony Lindfors earned his opener by a count of 15-13 in overtime over Rogers’ Kameron Munroe. Then after losing in the championship quarterfinals, Lindfors went on to earn fourth place — and his first state appearance — out of the consolation bracket.
Also in the consolation bracket at 140 pounds, NK junior Jeff Jones pulled out a gutty 2-1 decision over Olympia’s Jordan Pine, grabbing his first trip to state.
“It’s definitely been a dream season for us,” Cooke said. “Getting on the bus knowing that we had half of our guys that we took made it on through is a big thing.”
Cooke noted he expects that a certain amount of confidence will be garnered through the fact that none of the seven Vikings should feel alone in the enormity of the Matman Classic which begins Feb. 16 at the Tacoma Dome.