By SARA MILLER
Kitsap News Group
Eight South Kitsap wrestlers advanced to the second day of competition of the Mat Classic state wrestling tournament at the Tacoma Dome Feb. 17-18.
Six were able to medal and two competed in their respective weight-class final matches, all helping the Wolves finish in fifth place.
“It feels really good to finish fifth and bring home six medalists,” head coach Chad Nass said.
“As a coach, you always want more and you feel bad for the ones that did not place, but this sport is not always fair. And that’s what you love and hate about it at the same time.”
Ashton Schessler (113-pound weight class) finished in eighth place; Devin Gentz (120-pound weight class) and JJ Leota (182-pound weight class) finished in sixth place; Nathan Marin (160-pound weight class) finished third; and Mason Eaglin (138-pound weight class) and Sebastian Robles (145-pound weight class) both earned the silver medal.
“It felt good to do better than last year and make it to the final,” Robles said, “but next year I want to win it all. I have a better drive to win it.”
After winning their first two matches Feb. 17, both Robles and Eaglin were set up to compete in the semi-final for their first matches Feb. 18.
“We have been stressing all year the importance of wrestling hard on day two of tournaments because tournaments are not won and lost on day one,” Nass said.
“They are decided on day two. Our kids came out and had a great start to day two by winning five of our six matches, including putting two in the finals.”
In his semifinal match, Eaglin beat Devante Goodman of Mead High School to face Josh Franich of Puyallup. After leading the entire match, Franich pinned Eaglin in the last minute.
“It’s the worst pain ever,” Eaglin said. “It was a roller coaster of feeling good going in and during, and then it sucked.”
The next match featured Robles, who competed against Braedon Orrino of Graham Kapowsin.
“The coaches told me not to focus on Mason’s match because I was so sad that (he) lost,” Robles said.
“I went in thinking ‘I’m going to beat this guy. I’m going to be a state champ.’
“And then in the first five seconds, I got dominated. That guy was a man, he was so big.”
Although neither match went how they wanted, both finished second, which they considered to be a great achievement.
“At the end of the tournament I told the kids how proud I was of them, and how proud our school and community should be of them, not just by the results but the way they carried themselves and represented our school,” Nass said. “They were very gracious in both victory and defeat.”
Also finishing in the top three was junior Nathan Marin. Marin won his first match against Kaleb Solusod of Issaquah before falling to James Rogers of Battle Ground.
On Saturday, he beat Warren Han of Kamiak and Baylee Tran of Curtis to earn third place.
“Before my match, Coach Nass asked me, ‘The toughest guy takes what? Third,” Marin said.
“Things went wrong and Izaiah got hurt — which sucked — and we could have placed higher,” Eaglin said, “but regardless of those things, we did really well.”
Eaglin, Robles and Marin attribute their success to their hard work, the team’s cohesiveness, their coaches’ belief in them — and the “strangeness” of the South Kitsap wrestlers.
From double high-match, to Robles’ inspirational Naruto anime references. From random dance cirlces around unsuspecting teammates, to Eaglin swearing he pins coach Nass on a daily basis, and Robles explaining how players on the team like to hold his pockets. The Wolves wrestling team is one of a kind.
“We’re known as the weird team,” Eaglin said.
“We like to think of ourselves as a clan of assassins. But although we goof around, we get the work done.”
Next up is nationals in Virginia Beach in March] . Eaglin, Robles and Marin will be competing to prepare for next year, when they will have one last shot to claim a state title.
“The biggest thing right now is for us to stay together as a team and keep training,” Robles said.
Nass agreed, saying in the 21 years he’s been coaching, this was the tightest group he’s ever been around.
“The biggest thing I will take from this season is the bond the kids have formed with one another,” Nass said.
“All the kids got along with each other and there was never any drama between them. I think 20 years from now, most of them will still be friends and in contact with one another.”