The Mid-Columbia Conference wrestling season started early in December, but only now is it coming to full boil with a slew of MCC duals ahead over the next four weeks.
After Tuesdays round of matches, only Richland (3-0) and Chiawana (2-0) are unbeaten. The Bombers topped Kennewick 49-30, while the Riverhawks downed rival Pasco 36-20.
Richland is back on the mats today, traveling to Southridge to take on the Suns (1-2) at 7 p.m. In todays other matches, Walla Walla is at Pasco and Hanford is at Kennewick, also with 7 p.m. starts. Kamiakin and Chiawana will hold off their matchup until next Wednesday for the second annual Battle of the Bridge grudge match between coaching brothers Jack Anderson of the Riverhawks and Jordan Anderson of the Braves.
The MCC has four returning state placers in the mix, including Pasco junior Timmy Martinez, coming off an unbeaten Class 4A state championship at 120 pounds. Hanford senior Will Bishop placed fourth at 182 in 3A, while Southridge senior Bryce Overholt was fifth at 182 in 3A and Richland senior Pryce Seely eighth at 138 in 4A.
A date to circle for wrestling fans is Jan. 16, when the Suns visit the Falcons. Bishop has bumped up to 195 to start the season, while Overholt remains at 182. With a little luck, the pair could face off in two weeks. They staged a terrific match during their league dual last season, with Bishop pulling out a one-point win. Overholt topped Bishop 9-5 in the sub-regional semifinal.
There are three more state veterans on the mats: Hanfords Dallon Grinder at 285 and Chiawanas Jadin Salazar (145/152) and Abzael Loeza (220/285).
The Riverhawks easily have the most experienced team, with no fewer than seven returning regional wrestlers: Salazar, Loeza, Ezra Cazier (120), Bryce Buckley (126), Jacob Garcia (138), Blake Bishop (160) and Levi McBride (220).
Pasco has two regional returners in addition to Martinez, Bobby Guzman at 106 and Anthony Burrows at 160. Walla Wallas Noe Gonzalez (132) also is a regional vet.
In the 3A ranks, Kamiakins Tyler Almaguer (120) and Damien Gooldy (132) both qualified for regionals last year. Hanfords Blake Llarenas (120) joins Bishop and Grinder, and Southridge also has three regional vets with Overholt, Trenton Nett (132) and Marcus French-Surita (220). Kennewicks Alejandro Ramos (132) and Todd Pink (220) give the Lions regional experience.
Of course in wrestling, even the coaches tend to call the regular season preseason, since all roads travel to the postseason and hopefully to the Tacoma Dome for Mat Classic.
The 4A district and 3A sub-regional are set for the Tri-Cities on Saturday, Feb. 8, at Richland and Hanford. The following weekend, the 3As head to Snohomish for regionals while Pasco will host the Eastern Washington 4A regionals between the MCC, Big Nine and Greater Spokane League.