TACOMA — There’s nothing quite like wrestling at the Tacoma Dome. Well, except winning at the Tacoma Dome. That’s even better.
Newcomers and savvy veterans both found their way to the cusp of state glory, as 24 local grapplers moved Friday into the Mat Classic XXXII semifinals after the first day of the state’s biggest high school event. In total, 50 of the 110 local wrestlers competing advanced to the second day and guaranteed themselves a state medal.
“It’s such an amazing wrestling environment,” Heritage sophomore Israel Gonzalez said. Gonzalez earned two decision victories to advance to the 4A 113-pound semifinals. He’s been under the lights before and figured out how to win even when he wasn’t at his best.
Union’s Kyle Brosius and Levi Harms, too, learned from past experiences. Both have been state competitors, but never state placers. And now, both remain in contention for a state title.
“I’ve found confidence in myself, more confidence than I’ve ever had before,” Brosius said. “I started believing in myself and started having fun with the sport. That’s what’s made the biggest difference this year.”
Brosius is the favorite at 170 pounds.
After a pair of pins Friday, Harms has top-ranked 220-pounder Levi Kovacs, of Tahoma, looming in the finals. He knows better than to look ahead, though.
“The main lesson I learned is to never underestimate your opponents,” Harms said of what he learned from Mat Classics past. “Everyone is good. You have to be ready for every match like it’s a final match.”
But experience wasn’t the only determining factor on Friday. Freshman Malachi Wallway, for instance, found something deeper within himself to score a takedown trailing 7-0 in the third period. He scored a reversal and quickly earned the pin. The guaranteed medal puts Wallway on track to become Prairie’s first four-time state placer.
“I just wanted it,” Wallway said. “I set big goals, and big dreams for myself. This is just the start of it. … I’m not going to give up until I get what I want.”
Fellow 106-pounder, Camas sophomore Porter Craig was also experiencing the Dome for the first time. In front of the sizable crowd, Craig discovered new heights to his wrestling. The seventh-ranked grappler entering the weekend earned a 5-0 decision over South Kitsap’s Peyton Motter to earn his spot in Saturday’s semifinals.
“The crowd gets your adrenaline pumping,” Craig said. “It’s just that special place that makes your heart pump and you want to do more and more.”
Other semifinalists included Camas’ returning champion Gideon Malychewski (160), Heritage’s Alex Newberry (160), Evergreen’s Denny Roa (145), Kelso’s Derick Soto (132), Shale Webb (170) and Pavel Kolsky (195), Mountain View’s Noah Messman (132), Prairie’s Jason Wilcox (138), Washougal’s Scott Lees (152), Gus Shelley (160) and Aleksi Donahue (120), Woodland’s Judeah (113) and Josiah Sanders (120), Seton Catholic’s Elijah Volk (145) and CJ Hamblin (152), Stevenson’s Logan Hoffberger (126), Columbia-White Salmon’s David Durham (285), Hudson’s Bay’s Allison Blaine (135) and Union’s Riley Aamold (125) and Nevaeh Cassidy (155).