TACOMA — It’s a tough road to a state championship on the mats of the Tacoma Dome.
And though only one of the North Kitsap Vikings embarking on the weekend made it all the way to the finish line, none of those in purple and gold were walking alone. With seven representatives in 2007, North sent one of its largest crews ever to the Mat Classic XIX Feb. 16-17.
The Vikings returned, boasting 285-pounder Bill Plowman’s fourth place medal and 189-pounder Eric Hedin’s eighth place finish. Viking juniors Jim Smith, Anthony Lindfors, Jeff Jones, senior Lyle Welsh and junior Blythe Peterson — who was part of Washington’s first-ever girls-only state meet — also competed.
As a team, North finished in 23rd place with 29 points. Lake Stevens took the team title with 148.5 points, Pasco came in second with 135.5 points and Moses Lake finished third with 121.
“There’s a lot of pressure there, but I didn’t see anybody not perform well,” NK head coach Jon Cooke said. “There’s just some tough competition when you get to that round.”
Cooke was speaking of the second and third rounds of the state bracket, the rounds that decide which wrestlers move on to Day 2. All of those who make it through the first day are guaranteed at least eighth place.
Plowman earned the rights to that guarantee and more with full-force determination. When it came down to his first and final shot at making a name for himself at state as a senior, Plowman never looked back.
“He went in there and went after those guys, he wasn’t waiting to see what they were doing, he just went after them,” Cooke said of Plowman’s tenacity, noting that during the season, the North senior had that fire against smaller opponents but not so much versus those his size or bigger.
“This weekend, he was going after everybody,” he said.
Plowman opened the tourney winning an overtime slugfest by a count of 8-6 over Pasco’s Tony Fiore. Then in round two, Heritage senior Kyle Stults — who would pin his way to the championship match — pinned Plowman in the first period.
The Viking senior avenged that loss in his first bout of the consolation bracket as he pinned Redmond’s Ty Campbell in 51 seconds. Then he pinned Matt Lynch of Gonzaga Prep in 2:49. And with a win by forfeit in the semi-finals, Plowman was pitted against the Pasco senior he’d faced in round one for the third/fourth place final.
This time, Fiore took the upper hand, 5-3.
“That kid knew what (Bill) was going to do,” Cooke said of the second time around. “Mainly it came down to just one takedown.”
Many of the Vikings’ state matches came down to a matter of takedowns, Cooke said, “At this level you have to have those.”
For Hedin in his second year at state, a second round takedown — which led to a first period pin for Kentlake’s Jared Welsh — set an ominous tone for his final weekend.
Hedin went on to win his first match in the consolation bracket, moving onto Saturday’s semi-finals where University’s Brandon Oakes ended the NK senior’s season in eight place.
“(Hedin) was a little disappointed he didn’t get higher, but he had a tough week,” Cooke said. “You’re happy for him, but you feel sad at the same time because you know he was expecting more.”
Regardless of sour endings, Cooke said he expects the state tournament to be a beneficial experience which should provide fuel into next season.
The NK juniors who saw the Mat Classic for the first time are now driven by the desire to return. Next year, as seniors, that core should provide an example of possibility for the rest of the team.
“Next year’s team can look at those guys and say, ‘this is what it takes to get where they got, and I’m working just as hard as they are,’” Cooke said. “A lot of times its just a matter of confidence.”