KELSO — Evergreen senior Denny Roa’s postseason wrestling career started off in the worst way: by missing weight. At Saturday’s 3A Region 2 Tournament, Roa got his redemption.
He fought off Edmonds-Woodway’s Howie Hare, 3A’s fifth-ranked 145-pounder, to win a 7-4 decision and take home his first regional title. He finished fifth and was a state alternate as a sophomore. Last year, regionals were cancelled because of inclement weather.
“I knew I could win the match and all I had to do was believe in myself,” Roa said.
Roa, who placed sixth at Mat Classic a season ago, has grown more than just on the mats. He’s excelled outside of the gym as well.
“I try to grow on and off the mat,” Roa said. “My coach (Gabe Nunez) is a mentor. He’s not just a wrestling coach; he wants me to do great things outside of the wrestling room. That’s what he’s done. I’ve grown a lot.”
The Plainsmen senior is ranked second in 3A. He expects nothing less than state gold next Saturday.
“Seedings are nothing; rankings don’t mean anything,” Roa said. “But I am ranked second in state and I only plan on taking first.”
Roa was one of five local regional champions Saturday, joining Mountain View’s Noah Messman (132) and Va Ili (182), Kelso’s Shale Webb (170) and Hudson’s Bay’s Hayden DeGrandpre (195).
In total, 24 local wrestlers advanced to the Tacoma Dome out of the Kelso regional. The top four wrestlers in each weight class qualified for the Mat Classic.
Prairie, which finished second as a team behind Edmonds-Woodway, qualified Malachi Wallway (106), Noah Larsen (120), Jason Wilcox (138), Lucas Lyle (120), James Daniels (126), Benjamin Matson (170), Easton Lane (182) and Brody Schlaefli (285). Mountain View placed third as a team and advance Edward Jones (126) and Hunter Brown (113) in addition to the Thunder champions — Messman and Ili.
Ili earned an overtime victory over Mercer Island’s Colin Farrell in his championship match. Messman, the state’s top-ranked 132-pounder, had to topple a familiar foe in Kelso’s Derick Soto. The two met at last week’s district meet at Hudson’s Bay. This time around was a similar result, as Messman won by 9-3 decision.
“For me, I just try to stick to my gameplan and not worry about what other people are doing,” Messman said. “I just try to focus on myself and do what I’m going to do and execute my match.”
Messman has a pair of fifth-place Mat Classic finishes but enters this year with a target on his back.
“For me, that just means it’s not a time to relax,” Messman said. “It’s only time to start working harder. I know I’m the person everyone is training to beat.”
Hudson’s Bay advanced three boys to state, including 195-pounder Hayden DeGrandpre who defeated Kelso foreign exchange student Pavel Kolsky, of the Czech Republic. DeGrandpre won by 10-4 decision just a week after finishing second at districts behind teammate Malek Mabrouk. Mabrouk and Camden Courtney (160) earned trips to state as well.
“Last week I was psyching myself out,” DeGrandpre said. “This week I came out and did what I normally do and that worked.”
Rounding out the state qualifiers were Kelso’s Derick Soto (132), Pavel Kolsky (195), Giovannie Lopez (106), Ashton Ammons (113) and Brady Phillips (285), Evergreen’s Brayden Franklin (160) and Fort Vancouver’s Bryant Colonel (220).