The 32nd edition of WIAA’s state wrestling extravaganza, dubbed Mat Classic, is upon us. In total, 110 local wrestlers are scheduled to compete Friday at the Tacoma Dome in hopes of hearing their name called out as they stand atop a podium Saturday night.
Washougal tops local teams with 16 qualified wrestlers, followed by Union and Kelso’s 10 and Prairie’s nine.
Wrestling is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. Friday and for the second straight year, the day will be split into two sessions. From 10 a.m.-2 p.m., 4A, 1A and Class B wrestlers will compete. From 4:30-8:30 p.m., 3A, 2A and girls will wrestle. Tickets start at $18 for a single day and $32 for the tournament, with discounts for students and military. The NFHS Network will broadcast the event.
Here are some storylines to watch:
Joining Hudson’s Bay’s Allison Blaine, two other locals will seek a title repeat. Camas senior Gideon Malychewski, who has battled a knee injury this season, enters as the second-ranked 160-pounder behind Pasco’s Isaiah Gonzalez, a three-time state placer and 2017 champion. Malychewski won last year’s 170-pound championship but trimmed down for a run at 160 this year. Seton Catholic sophomore CJ Hamblin is the heavy favorite to win 1A’s 152-pound championship. He earned state gold at 145 pounds a season ago and could be on his way to becoming Clark County’s first four-time state champion.
Hamblin burst onto the scene last year as a freshman and while there’s no local ninth grader likely to follow suit this time around, there are some youngsters to watch this week. Tops among them is Ridgefield’s Uruwa Abe, who is the seventh ranked 105-pound girl and is coming off a regional crown. Union’s Spencer Needham (4A, 106) and Prairie’s Malachi Wallway (3A, 106) have also impressed this season and could make noise in Tacoma.
Team trophy hunt
No local team is likely to win a state title like the Union girls did last season, but there are several that could vie for a trophy. The top four teams in each classification earn trophies. The Union and Camas boys, with seven and six wrestlers, respectively, have the potential to factor into the equation. That could ring particularly true if the Papermakers’ Malychewski or Union’s Kyle Brosius make dominant title runs. Remember, pins are worth six points each in the winners’ bracket.
Washougal’s boys and girls should feel confident, too, given the large numbers they’re sending. The Panther boys have 10 wrestlers competing and the girls have six. While not exactly top-heavy — Washougal’s Scott Lees is likeliest to go on a deep run — more wrestlers equals more team points. The Prairie boys, amid their best season in program history, has surprised at every step of the way this season. With eight wrestlers competing, they could also rack up points.
The impact of 32
A season ago the cancellation of regionals forced the Tacoma Dome to play host to 32-wrestler brackets across six classifications in the largest Mat Classic ever. While many coaches thought the event went smoothly, albeit long, the brackets are back to 16 this season. However, many wrestlers who might not have had a chance to compete in the Dome a season ago can now use that experience. Of the 110 local wrestlers competing, 69 of them were state participants a season ago. How that might impact their tourney this time around will be an intriguing watch.