TACOMA – In the end, a state championship just wasn’t in the cards for Nick Perez.
The Oroville senior earned his third straight second-place finish at the Class 1B/2B state wrestling finals in the Tacoma Dome on Saturday as he and Alex Alvarez combined to lift the Hornets to a ninth-place finish in the team standings.
Perez (145 pounds) had the misfortune to run into Republic’s Kyle Kirkendall in the state championship match. Kirkendall, who won state titles in 2009 and 2010, had beaten Perez in the Eastern Regional meet last week.
Perez stayed in the hard-fought match to the finish, but Kirkendall held on for a 7-4 victory for his third title.
“Nick left it on the mat,” said Oroville coach Chuck Ricevuto. “But he could not overcome the two-time state champ.”
Perez, who took fourth at regionals after taking an injury default, had no easy path to the finals. Because of his seeding he faced the Western Regional champion, Jorey Palmer of Ocosta, and pinned him late in the second round.
Kaare Anderson, a 2010 state champion from Reardan, awaited Perez in the semifinals. The Hornet senior took an early lead and never let up in a 12-4 victory to clinch a spot in the championship.
Perez reached the state finals after missing the first half of the season while recovering from hamstring injury suffered during football season, but was able to get back into shape and finish with is run to the title match.
“We salute Nick and all of his accomplishments as a Hornet wrestler since he was a kindergartner,” Ricevuto said. “He had many gold medals in K-6 Killer Bee wrestling, a junior high culminating championship, four straight district championships. He was a four-time state placer with three runner-ups to the state title.
“It was an incredible show of talent and heart by an awesome young man.”
While Perez was on everyone’s radar as one of the state’s top wrestlers, Alvarez’s rise to the medal stand wasn’t as easily foreseen.
Alvarez (160), a state alternate last year (sixth at regionals), earned his state spot with a second-place finish at districts and third at regionals and wrestled through a difficult bracket to earn a fourth-place state finish.
Alvarez opened with a 16-5 major decision over Darrington’s Forrest Thompson, earning him a shot at defending state champion Gunnar Doggett in the semifinal match. Alvarez stayed with it the full six minutes, but Doggett, who went on to win his second straight title, defeated Alvarez 10-0.
Facing a loser-out match, Alvarez hung on to defeat LaConner’s Daltan Zavala to clinch a spot on the medal stand.
Alvarez rejoined his recent rivalry with Selkirk’s Michael Haskins in the third place match. The two had wrestled three matches this season that went to the final whistle, including at both districts and regionals, and the state match proved again how evenly matched the two are.
Haskins picked up his first victory in four tries against Alvarez, scoring a 6-5 victory in the final seconds to take third place.
“We also pay tribute to this wrestling warrior,” Ricevuto said. “He stuck with it and showed incredible improvement with each season. It paid off with huge dividends his senior year.”
The Hornets cracked the top 10 despite having only Perez and Alvarez make it to state. Oroville was holding onto the seventh spot until the final round, when Mary Walker and Selkirk bumped them to ninth. Warden easily won its second straight 1B/2B title over Reardan, with Liberty Bell placing third.
“Placing ninth as a team is a great achievement for our kids who stuck with the program through a very trying season,” Ricevuto said. “I am extremely proud to have had the chance to coach these fine young men.”