BATTLE GROUND – One year ago as freshmen, Noah Koyama and JJ Schoenlein fell narrowly short of a state wrestling championship.
This year, both will head to Mat Classic with all the confidence that they can reach that ultimate goal.
Both Koyama and Schoenlein won their weight classes at the Class 4A Region 3 Championships on Saturday at Battle Ground High School.
Koyama, a 132-pounder from Union, beat reigning state champion Stone Hartford of South Kitsap in the championship match.
Schoenlein, a 170-pounder from Skyview, beat Jackson Lougen of Camas for the title and will enter next weekend’s climactic tournament at the Tacoma Dome as the top-ranked wrestler in the weight class.
Neither sophomore will head to Mat Classic believing that stage is too big.
“I’ve always had the same goal since I was little, to be a four-time state champion,” said Koyama, who placed third in state last year. “I lost last year, so I’ve got to go get the next best thing, to be a three-timer.”
Saturday, No. 3-ranked Koyama beat top-ranked Hartford 5-1. Leading 3-1 in the final period, Koyama rebuffed a flurry of late attacks before scoring a takedown in the final seconds.
Koyama had confidence he could beat the state’s top-ranked wrestler in his weight class. He narrowly lost to Hartford 5-3 at the HammerHead Invitational in Bremerton earlier this season.
“I obviously wanted that rematch,” Koyama said. “I have the upmost respect for Stone. He’s one of my buddies. I’ve known him for years and we’ve gone back and forth. But it definitely does give me a good confidence boost going into state.”
Schoenlein also squared off against a wrestler he knows well. He faced Lougen for the fourth time this season, including an intense clash at last weekend’s district meet that Schoenlein won 4-3.
Saturday, top-ranked Schoenlein led 3-0 after two periods and held off Lougen to win 6-3. Lougen is the No. 4-ranked wrestler in that weight statewide in Class 4A.
“Like I told him a few minutes ago, he’s the strongest man I’ve probably ever wrestled,” Schoenlein said. “I’ve battled him four times now. Every time is a great match. He’s a great guy. I couldn’t ask for a better opponent.”
Schoenlein will draw on last year’s experience at Mat Classic, where he placed fifth.
“It’s more of a mental struggle than anything,” Schoenlein said. “My coaches have used a lot of breathing techniques and mind techniques with me. I’m going to carry those over to state this year so I can be more calm and flow through the matches better than I did. Last year I was sort of a mental mess. This year I hope that can be quite different.”
In addition to Lougen, three other Clark County wrestlers showed they are contenders for a state championship despite coming up just short on Saturday.
Skyview sophomore Owen Pritchard finished runner-up at 138-pounds, falling in the title match 5-2 to reigning state champion Mitchell Neiner of South Kitsap. Pritchard, who placed third in state last year, trailed 3-2 in the third period before Neiner scored a takedown with 13 seconds left.
Camas freshman Simon Jarrell showed his future is as bright as anyone’s. The 160-pounder fell to Graham-Kapowsin’s Devan Carter 3-0 after the match was scoreless entering the final period.
At 220 pounds, Union’s Clayton Maus lost 2-1 in the title match against No. 2-ranked Johnathon Gressett of Curtis. Maus nearly earned an escape in the final 10 seconds that would have tied the match.
The top four finishers in each weight class Saturday qualified for Mat Classic. Class 4A Clark County wrestlers also headed to Tacoma are Jaxon McAtee (Skyview, 106 pounds), Keegan Faust (Skyview, 106), Kian Athey (Camas, 113), Alec Fraser (Camas, 120), Beau Harlan (Camas, 152), Olajuwon Sobomehin (Camas, 160), Alexander Olson (Union, 182), Elliott Scott (Camas, 195) and Kayden Miller (Union, 285).