Brackets set for Mat Classic XXIV

By Kevin Anthony, Tri-City Herald February 13, 2012 

Saturday's smiles can give way to Sunday frowns in a hurry as regional wrestling glory gives way to grim determination for what lies ahead at state.

The pairings for Mat Classic XXIV were released Sunday by the WIAA (go to wiaa.com for full brackets). The two-day mat-fest starts Friday at the Tacoma Dome. Some 1,200 wrestlers will descend on the dome in six separate tournaments.

One thing becomes clear when the brackets are released: Winning a regional championship means so much more than just that title. It means primo seeding.

For instance, Moses Lake's Fernando Levya proved to be two points better than Chiawana's Chris Montelongo in the 106-pound championship at the Eastern Washington 4A regional Saturday.

Though he lost 5-0 to Montelongo the previous week at districts, Leyva got the win when it counted the most. His reward: a state bracket that isn't overly cluttered with highly touted talent. Montelongo, on the other hand, could face a No. 1 seed in the second round -- Edmonds-Woodway's Noah Cuzzetto, ranked No. 1 overall at 106 by Washington Wrestling Report -- and has another top-10 guy in his half of the bracket.

That same scenario played out in the 1A ranks at 132 pounds, where Kiona-Benton's Matt McCallum beat Royal's Danny Barajas 7-5 in their regional final. A week ago at district, it was Barajas winning the final.

Both seniors are three-time state placers expected to add a fourth. But where McCallum looks to be the guy to beat in his half of the state bracket, Barajas has No. 3 overall Kit Major of Riverside as a likely semifinal opponent.

For that matter, Major probably wasn't too thrilled to find out Barajas was on his side either, what with the Royal wrestler's state championship at 119 last season.

Some wrestlers probably opened up their bracket much like a kid on Christmas day, with anxious anticipation and a big smile.

Othello's Joey Gomez is one of the best 220-pounders in the state, period. So the two-time state runner-up isn't staring down the business end of a loaded bracket -- he is the business end.

Ditto for Moses Lake's Nico Moreno, who last weekend put an 11-3 major decision on Mead's Tyler McLean, likely to be his toughest competition at 152 as the Chiefs senior tries to get over that final hurdle after finishing second in state the last two seasons.

Finally, don't be overly surprised if there aren't a few CBBN reunions in Saturday's placing matches, particularly in the 3A 170-pound bracket.

Hanford's Joe Traverso, Kamiakin's Sisto Santana Pina and Southridge's Kevin Del-Angel have finished 1-2-3 the last two weeks -- with first and third swapping from district to regionals.

The trio of state veterans look strong to triple up on the medals, with Everett's Connor Boyce likely crashing the party.

Of course, once again timing is everything. Pina, who placed third at district but won the regional title, is a strong bet to make the semifinals and even the final. Traverso, Del-Angel and Boyce will have to duke it out on their side.

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