PASCO -- Lonnie Hurley vividly remembers his first trip to Mat Classic last season.
The crowds, the mats, the constant hum that makes up the controlled chaos at the Tacoma Dome one weekend each February. It was a lot to take in for Pasco's then-sophomore standout.
Never mind that he didn't get a chance to suit up and step on one of those mats.
"It was a great experience, regardless," Hurley recently recalled of his experience as a state alternate. "Just to be down there and train with (teammate Cody Rush) was nice."
Nice, but not quite the experience Hurley -- nor any of the wrestlers who will step onto the regional tournament mats -- wants to repeat.
All 1,200 of the wrestlers for next weekend's Mat Classic will be decided Saturday at various events around the state, including the Eastern Washington 3A regional at Pasco High School.
The region's 4A teams from the CBBN and the Greater Spokane League will square off at Ferris High in Spokane. Meanwhile, the CWAC wrestlers will take on their Great Northern counterparts at Ellensburg.
East and West will collide at the SCAC regional at Connell, also the site of the Eastern Washington girls regional. And all the 2B/1B schools on this side of the state will be in Reardan.
Hurley and his Pasco teammates will be at home in what figures to be one of the toughest regionals in the state. At stake are three state berths in each of the 14 weight classes.
The field includes three of the top five 3A teams in the state as rated by Washington Wrestling Report -- No. 1 University, No. 4 North Central and No. 5 Sunnyside -- plus No. 7 Shadle Park and No. 9 Mount Spokane.
Half of WWR's top-ranked 3A wrestlers will be in the field, including Sunnyside's Josh Romero at 145 pounds and Adam Peters at 285. The field is bolstered by 24 state vets, 13 of them returning placers.
Among those returners are Hanford's Matt Owens at 145 (fourth in state last year) and Joe Traverso at 160 (did not place last year); Pasco's Rush at 145 (DNP at 152); Kamiakin's Sisto Santana Pina at 160 (DNP); and Sunnyside's Nathan Gonzalez at 119 (fourth and second at 103 the last two years), Emmanuel Tejeda at 140 (DNP at 125 in 2008), Romero at 145 (DNP at 119 in 2008) and Peters at 285 (DNP).
A slew of GSL wrestlers have strong state pedigrees:
University's Tyler Clark at 112 (two-time state placer), Brandon Matlock at 119 (two-time placer), Brandon Byers at 130 (fourth), Dustin Johnson at 189 (fourth) and Jake Laden at 215 (third); North Central's Jared Berlinger at 125 (runner-up last year and three-time placer), Mitchell Bocook at 135 (fourth) and Anthony Whitmarsh at 215 (runner-up); Shadle Park's Darren Bunke at 140 (two-time placer) and Dylan Lemery at 189 (seventh); and Mount Spokane's Austin Pea at 152 (eighth).
Among the toughest weights to crack are 119 (a pair of two-time placers in Sunnyside's Gonzalez and U-Hi's Matlock along with Mount Spokane state vet Tim Taigen) and 140 (Shadle's Bunke and Sunnyside's Tejeda wrestle in the first round, Southridge standout Connor Rosane likely will await the winner, and West Valley state vet Preston Baich is the top seed from the CBBN).
Life won't be easy at 145, with Romero, Rush, Owens and Southridge's Will McNamara continuing their seasonlong battle into regionals. With only three state berths -- plus some GSL wrestlers -- at least one state-quality competitor will be left in the cold.
Again, three top-five teams (No. 2 Mead, No. 3 Moses Lake and No. 5 Central Valley), along with four top-ranked wrestlers, will make this one of the state's toughest tickets to Mat Classic, with only three in each weight advancing.
Moreover, there are five returning state champs -- Moses Lake's Herson Rodriguez at 140 (1B/2B champ at 140 last year for Lind-Ritzville), Brian Chamberlain at 215 and Kabe Fluaitt at 285; and Mead's Jeremy Golding at 135 (125 last year) and Jordan Rogers at 171 (140 state champ in 2009) -- among the 11 state placers and 18 state vets.
The Mid-Columbia has a strong contingent of state veterans, including Richland's Kyler Mars at 119 (DNP at 103 in 2009) and Dustin Utecht at 135 (fifth at 130); Chiawana's Nick Garcia at 130 (DNP); and Moses Lake's Beau Gleed at 119 (seventh at 103), Rodriguez at 140, Nico Moreno at 145 (second at 140), Chamberlain at 215 and Fluaitt at 285.
The 119 class is crowded, with state vets Gleed and Mars, Moses Lake's Hayden Wise seeded second and Central Valley freshman Colton Orrino the GSL's No. 1.
At 125, CV's Jarod Maynes is working on becoming a three-time regional champ and four-time state placer, and 135 should come down to Utecht and Golding for a third time this season, with Mead's state champ winning the first two matches in decisions.
While Moreno is the only state veteran at 145, he likely will be challenged by Mead freshman Chandler Rogers in the final. Moreno beat Rogers 9-4 during the regular season.
The CWAC and Great Northern -- two of the top wrestling leagues in the state -- will divvy up four berths.
The favorite is Deer Park, which won a tiebreaker with four-time Oregon 5A state champ Hermiston for the team title at Best of the West. Othello and East Valley of Spokane likely will battle for No. 2, with Clarkston, Cheney, Ellensburg and Toppenish making it tough on everyone else.
The brackets include five state champs:
Othello's Amando Deleon at 160; Deer Park's Jake Konzal at 112 (103 title), Billy Rhoads at 145 (140 in 2009) and Shawn Burton at 285 (state champ in 2009); and Toppenish's Julian Romero at 130 (125). Incidentally, neither Konzal nor Romero is a top seed, having been upset in the district tournaments.
1A SCAC regional
With Kiona-Benton, Royal, Connell, Zillah and Granger among the state's best, expect serious competition for the tournament's four berths.
Connell's Hernan Serra at 112 (103 title) and Granger's Pete Almaguer at 285 are returning state champs. But no one is primed for a better tourney than Zillah 160-pounder Chris Castillo, hoping to become the state's seventh four-time state champ.
Ki-Be, which edged Connell for the East sub-regional title, has three returning state veterans: Matt McCallum at 130 (runner-up at 119), David Gonzales at 119 (sixth at 125) and Garrett Whitney at 189 (sixth at 171 in 2009 with Connell).
River View's Chance Watt is the top seed at 135 and has hopes of improving on his third- and fourth-place finishes at state the last two years.
An increase in the area's numbers have added a third berth to state. Among those competing in the tourney in Connell will be Kennewick's Hannah
Moon at 130 (fourth at 125 last year) and Kiona-Benton's Sheridan McDonald, seeking to become the state's first four-time girls state champion.