Took a week off to rally from the winter sports doldrums and get ready to spring into the spring.
While I was away, a packet was delivered to my desk from the hand of Gary Hackney.
Now, before I get into what was in the packet, let me say for those of you not up on the wrestling history of the Tri-Cities that Gary Hackney is a coaches’ coach. He is a hall of famer who started out as Pasco’s first state champion (1962), then went on to coach the Bulldogs for 19 seasons until stepping down in 1990, though his fingerprints are all over the program to this day.
He officiated for another 22 years and now has his mind on building up girls wrestling. As coach of the Bulldogs girls team, he put together the Tri-Cities’ first girls dual last season between Pasco and Sunnyside (naturally, his team won 36-17.
Which brings us to what was left on my desk.
The Tri-City Herald has been doing all-area teams for the various high school sports for more than a dozen years, including wrestling. For the last six years, we’ve included two girls on the team, one from a lower weight and one from an upper. The division usually fell between 130 and 135 pounds because Kiona-Benton’s Sheridan McDonald won four state titles at 135, and we could always find another high placers in the lower weights.
But that is not good enough any more, not for Gary Hackney. And when Gary Hackney talks, wrestling-neophyte sports writers listen.
Hackney pointed out that 29 of the 36 area girls who went to Mat Classic XXV in February placed, an 81 percent success rate. Furthermore, with at least one state placer in 11 of the 12 weights, the girls are due a full-on all-area team of their own, separate from the boys, Hackney said.
Now to be honest, I’m not sure I agree. For one, it still is much easier for girls to get to the state tournament than for boys, just based on the number of participants. Also, the quality on the girls mats is not the same as the boys, though it is improving each year.
Second, as the guy who covers wrestling at the paper, it means I have to do twice as many all-area teams at the end of the winter season, where I am often so burned out I need a week off (see top of story). Twelve more photos I have to corral (13 with a coach of the year), another story to write, another package to lay out.
OK, so no one is crying for me. In all seriousness, this is something our staff will have to address for next season. But for now, I give you the first (and unofficial) all-area wrestling team, as constructed by Gary Hackney.
First team, second team, honorable mention
100—Marizza Birrueta, Grandview; Deianeira Caudle, Warden; Elizabeth Galvez, Toppenish (Note: not from our area, but we’ll let it fly this time).
105—Melisa Vasquez, Warden; Tamika Pierce, Richland; Kayla Gonzalez, Sunnyside.
112—Viannei Perez, Grandview; Mary Gutierrez, Mabton; Julissa Valenciano, Othello.
118—Brenda DeLeon, Warden; Daisy Chavez, Sunnyside; Jessica Rolland, Kiona-Benton.
124—Desiree Zavala, Grandview; Tatum Sparks, Othello; Jazmin Mendoza, Mabton.
130—Miexy Gonzales, Warden; Abigail Elizondo, Sunnyside; Sydney Virgen, Pasco.
137—Allesha Reyes, Othello; Maria Rivera, Granger (again, not in our area); Alexys Jolley, Warden.
145—Bianca Hernandez, Warden; Alejandra Rodriguez, Granger (ditto); Ashley Martinez, Warden.
155—Tania Martinez, Pasco; Aneissa Gonzales, Warden; Amanda Kinder, Othello.
170—Jessica Cardenas, Sunnyside; Felisha Orozco, Connell.
190—Domineke Seal, Warden; Victoria Gaytan, Wahluke.
235—Andrea Contreras, Warden; Maribel Rodriguez, Othello; Jen Aznaran, Wahluke.
Gary didn’t name a wrestler of the year or coach of the year. Coach is easy — Warden’s Valerie Hernandez guided her team to the state title and already was named the girls state coach of the year.
I figure WOY would come down to Grandview’s Birrueta at 100 and Othello’s Allesha Reyes at 137, both state champions along with Greyhounds freshman Zavala. Probably give Birrueta the nod. The decider? She won the Foss tournament this year ... beat a bunch of boys to do it, too.