Prep Wrestling

An injury nearly ended his season. Now he’s a state champ, and our All-Area Wrestler of the Year

Kamiakin’s Austin Almaguer salutes the crowd after defeating North Central’s Clayton Gilliam during their 132-pound 3A state championship match Feb. 17 at the Tacoma Dome. Almaguer won the match 6-1.
Kamiakin’s Austin Almaguer salutes the crowd after defeating North Central’s Clayton Gilliam during their 132-pound 3A state championship match Feb. 17 at the Tacoma Dome. Almaguer won the match 6-1. Special to the Herald

The state wrestling tournament has been over for a month now, but Austin Almaguer hasn’t slowed down one bit.

The Kamiakin junior took about four days off, had lunch at El Fat Cat Grill, then got back to work.

It’s that work ethic that earned him district, regional and state titles this winter, and the Herald’s All-Area Wrestler of the Year honor.

“He was very, very consistent and dominant,” Kamiakin coach Jordan Anderson said. “There aren’t many kids who have those traits. He was phenomenal this year and very deserving of this award.”

Jack Anderson, who led Chiawana to the Mid-Columbia Conference regular-season title and an eighth-place team finish at state, is the Coach of the Year.

Almaguer, who wrestles at 132 pounds, is joined on the first team by teammates Jacob Olson (won a state title at 170) and Sione Halo (second at 152).

Almaguer, who missed time with an elbow injury early in the season, finished with a 28-5 record. He had 17 pins, three technical falls and two major decisions, and ended the season on a 14-0 run for his for state title.

“He had a tough bracket at regionals and at state,” Anderson said. “He went out and got it done. He beat the returning state champion (Clayton Gilliam of North Central) in the finals. He lost to him at Dream Duals, but he wanted to prove he was the best in that weight class.”

When Almaguer hurt his elbow, he thought he might be done for the season.

“I had the doctor look at it,” Almaguer said. “Nothing was broken. I took six weeks off. Afterward, there was a point in the season where I wasn’t wrestling to where I thought I should be. It was a mental block. I went to a camp in Aberdeen, talked to some coaches, and I was wrestling back to where I should be.”

After winning district, Almaguer’s trek to state got a little tougher, but he had the confidence to push forward.

“I train just as long, if not longer,” he said. “Why can’t I be the one to come out on top and beat them?”

And beat them he did.

At state, he pinned his first opponent in 3:15, then beat Ky Haney of Mt. Spokane 4-0 to reach the semifinals.

Aria Zarei of Meadowdale lasted 4:57 in the semis before Almaguer pinned him to reach the title match, where he posted a 6-1 win over Gilliam.

“It was my high school dream to win that state title,” Almaguer said. “That was cool. I took like four days off and it was back to training. You have so much time on your hands when you aren’t practicing. I was lost. I have some big tournaments coming up that I’m training for.”

The one thing Almaguer did not get to do this season was wrestle Pasco’s Isaiah Gonzalez, who went on to finish third at the 4A state tournament at 132. The Pasco-Kamiakin match was during the stretch where Almaguer was hurt.

“I was looking forward to wrestling him,” Almaguer said. “It’s hard to find that kind of competition in the Mid-Columbia Conference.”

Top Coach

After the Riverhawks won the MCC title, they place second at district, fifth at regionals and eighth at state. Chiawana had sophomore Robby Vaughn in the 120-pound finals, where he placed second. In all, the Riverhawks sent a school-record nine to state and had five place.

“That’s something to be proud of,” Anderson said. “This is a tough league to compete in,” Anderson said. “There is great coaching and good wrestling from all the teams.”

Of the five who placed at state, three were sophomores — Vaughn, Riley Cissne (145) and Tyson Stover (160).

“We are a young team,” Anderson said. “Those three sophomores have grown up around Chiawana wrestling since they were little boys. It’s neat to have them in high school leading the way. We should be in the hunt for a state title in a couple of years.”

First Team

MVP: Austin Almaguer, jr., Kamiakin. Coach of the Year: Jack Anderson, Chiawana. 106: Chris Melo, sr., Othello. 113: Hunter Murphey, sr., Hanford. 120: Robby Vaughn, so., Chiawana. 126: Gio Penaloza, sr., Southridge. 132: Austin Almaguer, jr., Kamiakin. 138: David Tobias, jr., Pasco. 145: Riley Cissne, so., Chiawana. 152: Sione Halo, jr., Kamiakin. 160: Tyson Stover, so., Chiawana. 170: Jacob Olson, jr., Kamiakin. 182: Jevon Johnson, jr., Southridge. 195: Dominic Almaguer, sr., Pasco. 220: Anthony Cortez, sr., Pasco. 285: Seer Deines, sr., Connell.

Second Team

106: Nate Tovar, so., Pasco. 113: Xavier Zavala, jr., Kamiakin. 120: Angel Del Angel, sr., Kiona-Benton. 126: Kobe Santoyo, jr., Chiawana. 132: Isaiah Gonzalez, so., Pasco. 138: Breyden Baratone, sr., Southridge. 145: Joey Chavez, so., Kamiakin. 152: Pattrick Workman, jr., Richland. 160: Emilio Ramos, sr., Kennewick. 170: Avery Burrows, jr., Pasco. 182: Hayden Henry, jr., Hanford. 195: DJ Guzman, sr., Othello. 220: Jonathan Burt, jr., Hanford. 285: Josh Alvarez, sr., Chiawana.

Honorable Mention

106: Johnathan Magana, so., Connell. 113: Dominic Martinez, fr., Royal. 120: Austin Hayward, so., Kamiakin. 126: Jordan Renteria, sr., Pasco. 132: Morgan McFee, jr., Chiawana. 138: Israel Romero, jr., Chiawana. 145: AJ Tuia, sr., Hermiston. 152: Edwin Romero, sr., Walla Walla. 160: Mikael Failor, jr., Southridge. 170: Mark Meier, sr., Southridge. 182: Jose Tovar, jr., Pasco. 195: Eric Stayrook, sr., Southridge. 220: Atsamaz Pliev, jr., Southridge. 285: Isaiah Perez, so., Othello.

Annie Fowler: 509-582-1574, @TCHIceQueen