By AARON MANAGHAN
If the Central Kitsap wrestling team was looking for an opportunity to test the team’s conditioning, it needed to look no further than its own invitational tourney.
The 31st annual CK Matman Classic provided that challenge and many others as the Cougars held their own at their invitational tournament, one which many called the toughest in the state this year.
CK finished seventh of the 16 teams, with powerhouses Lake Stevens and Enumclaw battling it out for the tourney title, which Lake Stevens nabbed with 188.5 points to Enumclaw’s 182.5.
While the Cougars wrestled well at the invite, there were no guarantees as more than 30 returning state placers flooded the field at almost every weight class. Complicating things for CK was the fact that several Cougar wrestlers were out for much of the season, including senior Franco Cruz, who finished last year with a sixth-place medal at state in the 135-pound weight class. Cruz had missed much of the season with an abscess. So where many wrestlers have 20 or more matches under their belts coming in to Matman, Cruz had eight.
But that made him appreciate his third-place finish at 140 even more.
“Based on my condition, yeah,” Cruz said when asked if he was happy with the tourney. “I’m getting back into my game.”
Several other Cougars missed mat time this season with a bout of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, a common skin infection.
So that said, Harter was pleased with his Cougs’ showing.
“We lost some matches I thought we should have won,” Harter said. “But that happens at every tournament. But I saw improvement in all the kids.”
Trevor Stanburg had a tough tourney at 119, beginning strong with a 3:26 pin of Graham-Kapowsin’s Travis Metcalf before Brandon Truini pinned him in 1:13. Stanburg rebounded with a big 19-3 win against Mt. Spokane’s Wyatt Maguire but then drew Lake Stevens’ Jack Stilwell, the eventual third-place finisher. Brad Franco won his opening match at 125 12-5 before falling to Enumclaw’s Jason Gray, the eventual champion. He got a win by pinning Olympic’s Curtis Reeve in 58 seconds before his day came to an end at the hands of South Kitsap’s Adam Ferguson.
Caleb Presson (130), Jake Newell (171), Justin Williams (215) and Morgan Yerber (285) all got at least one win before exiting. At 103, Josh Lemos pinned North Kitsap’s Kellin Doyle in 1 minute, 52 seconds before Enumclaw’s Marcus Nichols outed him a win from a placement.
As for Cruz’s strong day, Harter said it probably could have been better had it not been for the time away.
“That’s all it is,” Harter said. “Franco’s conditioning is the thing we have to keep working on. It’s not gonna take him that long.”
Of the team’s recent returners, Harter said he was pleased with the effort of 189er Howard McDonald, who won two matches via pin before falling in a hard-fought 9-5 decision to Mt. Spokane’s Teddy Fernau.
“Howie is the same way,” Harter said, referring to conditioning. “Howie wrestled especially hard in this tournament. He wrestled himself to exhaustion. “
At 152, Chad Massida nearly got bounced, falling hard in the opener 14-3 to North Kitsap’s Paul Coulter. But Massida bounced back with four consecutive wins, including back-to-back pins, to take a share of third place with Coulter.
“He very much earned that third,” Harter said. “Chad’s one of those matches where he shouldn’t have lost. It just happened. But he got it back.”
Mike Crowley (171) nearly made the finals but got caught in the semis by Shelton’s Ronald Yates in 2:47. He too bounced back with a 3-1 overtime win against Jason Dudley. And while it may not have been the prettiest win, Harter said he was pleased with Crowely’s day on the whole.
“He should have been a finalist,” Harter said. “He stayed in it. He wasn’t really wrestling well but he stayed in it.”
Kent Manalo wrestled well for CK, winning 4-3 against South Kitsap’s Brian Padmos before falling in a close 7-5 decision to CJ Thompson, who gave three-time state champ Michael Mangrum of Auburn-Riverside a run for his money.
Manalo fought through consolation to a fifth-place finish.
And while he didn’t place, Harter said the effort of 135er Karl Koemmpel summed up what he was looking for. Koemmpel pinned Michael Milat of Tahoma in 3:44 before falling to top-seeded Jacob Jokela of Enumclaw 6-1.
“Karl Koemmpel, it was his first time at 135,” Harter said. “He wrestled hard. It didn’t go exactly his way, but there’s no quit in him. And for the wrestling part, that’s the case with every kid.”
With the competition as tough as it’s ever been — Harter said it might be the toughest Matman ever — the CK coach was pleased with his team’s showing. Cruz too said it was nice to see everyone fare well.
“Overall, the whole team did good this year,” Cruz said. “It’s cool. Our team gets to get known better and then we get invites to other tournaments for holding such a great one ourselves.”
With Cruz expecting to be back at state, he said getting to see some of his prospective competition early should be an advantage come the postseason.
“I get to see ’em, get to experience what’s coming,” Cruz said. “You get to prepare for it. It makes it better.”
CK wrestled with Lincoln Monday, but results of that contest were unavailable at press time. CK will be at the Klahowya Klassic this Saturday.