Mid-Columbia's small schools represent at Mat Classic

By Kevin Anthony, Tri-City HeraldFebruary 19, 2012 

TACOMA -- If you are wondering, the difference between leaving Mat Classic empty-handed and leaving with a state title boils down to one thing: work.

Hard work, hour after hour, grinding through endless days, piling up an entire year's determination.

That, Cruz Del Angel said, is the difference.

The Kiona-Benton sophomore, who last year didn't make it past the first day at the Tacoma Dome, turned himself into a wrestler whose opponents tend not to make it past the first round.

And it paid off perfectly Saturday night with a state title.

Del Angel pinned Colville's Chandler Knight 46 seconds into the second round to claim the crown at 170 pounds.

"It feels awesome," said Del Angel, who dedicated his perfect 36-0 season to his mother, Pamela, who died of breast cancer last summer.

"That's why I wear pink socks in every match," he added.

He provided the Mid-Columbia's only champion in the 1A state tournament, surprising considering five finalists came from the SCAC East.

One of them, Ki-Be teammate Matt McCallum, finished second at 132 pounds after getting pinned by Riverside's Kit Major in the second period.

McCallum, who lost to Major last year in the match for third and fourth, was in good shape, trailing 4-2 and with a takedown of his own early in the second.

But the Riverside senior took advantage of a small opening and put McCallum on his back for a sudden finish.

McCallum finishes not just as a four-time state placer but also the school's record holder for wins (141-19). It was his second runner-up finish.

In the 2A ranks, Othello senior Joey Gomez finally claimed his title at 220 after finishing second the previous two seasons.

He dominated Deer Park's CJ Rodgriguez -- whom he pinned at regionals last week -- with a 16-0 technical fall.

"It's been hard being so close two years in a row," said Gomez, who had his hand raised to chants of "Jo-ey, Jo-ey, Jo-ey" from the considerable Othello faithful. "I finally achieved what I wanted to do. I've been wrestling since I was 5, and this was my goal."

Othello finished sixth in the 2A team race, won by Deer Park for the fifth consecutive season.

Meanwhile, Warden left the B ranks in fine fashion, winning a second consecutive team title, getting repeat titles from Javier Tapia at 120 and J.P. Martinez at 126 and added four more runners-up.

"It's easy to get first," said Tapia, who beat Tyler Osborn of Mary Walker 5-4 in a rematch of their regional title. "It's tough to stay first."

It wasn't all that tough for Martinez, who dismantled Liberty Bell sophomore Justin McMillan with a 15-0 technical fall, then showed he knows how to make a night of it by celebrating with a "discount doublecheck" and then giving his girlfriend some state hardware of her own, a gift necklace.

"It's awesome," said Martinez, who finishes his Warden career as a four-time finalist. "Everyone wants to experience it, but only a few get to experience it. I've wrestled all my life, and this is what I've dreamed of."

The Cougars, who are moving back to 1A next season, got second-place finishes from seniors Ernesto Orozco (132), Hector Camacho (170) and Matthew DeLeon (285), and freshman Jerry Reyes at 182.

Del Angel recorded three pins on the weekend -- two in the first period -- and a 9-0 decision.

He said he made up his mind after a close match at districts -- the score was tied 5-all when he pinned that opponent -- to really bear down.

"After that match, I decided that no one was going to come close to me again," he said.

They never did.

"He put so much time in this spring and summer," Ki-Be coach Ben Hill said. "He freestyled, he practiced twice a day and then worked out on his own. He'd go anywhere to wrestle. H was on the national dual team and went 6-2.

"He's on a mission. He wants to win a state championship, he wants to be an All-American in freestyle, and he wants to wrestle in college."

Kiona-Benton finished 10th in the team race, won by Orting for the fourth consecutive season. Royal was ninth, with runner-up finishes from junior Alex Myrick (160) and Damien DelaRosa (182). Connell senior Tyson Brook was second at 285.

Area girls turned in a medal haul the area has never seen -- 12 state medals, including runner-up finishes from Othello junior Allesha Reyes at 137 and Connell freshman Felisha Orozco at 170.

Tri-City Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service