Tigers send five wrestlers, three alternates to state finals

CHELAN – Eight Tonasket wrestlers, including five automatic qualifiers, survived Saturday’s District 6/7 Regional Tournament at Chelan to earn spots at this weekend’s state 1A finals at Mat Classic XXV at the Tacoma Dome.

The Tigers and their Caribou Trail League brethren flexed their muscle as the league dominated its head-to-head matchup with the Northeast A League, sweeping the top three team spots, claiming eight of 14 individual titles and 34 of 56 available state tournament berths. Quincy took the team regional championship over Chelan, with the Tigers third. Tonasket alum Patrick Mitchell’s Chewelah squad placed fourth.

“It was its usual emotional rollercoaster ride,” said Tonasket coach Dave Mitchell.

State tournament veterans Collin Aitcheson (120 pounds), Jeffrey Stedtfeld (126) and Austin Booker (160) each wrestled their way to their respective regional championship matches before taking second place.

Jorge Juarez (126) and John Rawley (195) took third while Trevor Peterson (113), Dalton Wahl (132) and Tanner Good (285) finished fifth.

Also wrestling was Austin Knowlton (170).

Aitcheson and Stedtfeld both wrestled in the Tacoma Dome last season, while Booker qualified two years ago but was injured midway through last season.

Aitcheson pinned Riverside’s Austin Calder in his first round regional match, edged Ivan Love of Riverside 7-3 in the semifinal and lost to Darius “Hootie” Judd 5-2 in the championship.

“It feels great to go back to the dome for another chance at a state title,” Aitcheson said. “Mitchell and Cole, along with my family and friends, have been there for me at every turn to guide an support me. I thank the Lord for all they have given to me.”

Stedtfeld beat Chewelah’s Kyle Connell 12-4 and pinned Riverside’s Tyler Jack before losing 14-4 to Lakeside’s Klint Brown for the title.

“It means a lot to me to make it to state,” Stedtfeld said. “It’s a great feeling when you’ve trained so hard for something and have the opportunity to accomplish your goals. I’m excited, and I’m ready to go!”

Booker was edged 4-3 by Quincy’s Antonio Melendez for the title after pinning Chewelah’s Nathaniel Finley and Quincy’s Andy Vargas.

“I feel like a have a lot of pressure riding on me to do good at state,” Booker said. “So I’m more nervous now then I’ve been for anything. My plan of attack is take it one match at a time, go out in a ball of fire and leave it all on the mat.

Juarez, a freshman, won his third place match 6-5 over Julio Vera of Chelan. Like his teammate Stedtfeld, his only loss on the day was to Klint Brown (7-4). Juarez beat Freeman’s Christian Goldbach and survived a wild 19-13 decision over Tyler Jack to reach the consolation final.

“It has been a huge accomplishment making it to state this year,” Juarez said. “Next weekend I plan to wrestle the best I can and give it my all. It’s been an honor to wrestle with my teammates, and I’m excited to go to state with them. My coaches were a huge help this season.”

Rawley beat Chewelah’s Josh Hanley twice on the day, opening with a 10-0 major decision and taking the third place match, 4-0. Rawley’s lone loss came to regional champ Alex Cortez of Chelan, and he pinned Freeman’s Brian Hogan to reach the third place match.

“I’ve been going to the state tournament since I was seven years old,” Rawley said. “It has been my dream to wrestle in the dome and it has finally come. I hope to place top eight in the tournament.”

Wahl and Peterson, while claiming alternate-to-state spots, demonstrated the CTL’s depth as both were alternates to regionals after finishing fifth at the district meet last week. They each finished fifth again against deeper competition, with Peterson pinning Lakeside’s Jacob Ulland in his fifth-place match and Wahl beating Newport’s Austin Krogh by major decision, 13-0.

Good defeated Newport’s Alex Solis twice on the day to earn his fifth-place finish, both wins coming in pins.

Tonasket assistant coach Cole Denison also was voted as the Region 4 Assistant Coach of thee Year by the region’s other coaches. The 2005 Tonasket graduate was a two-time state champion while in high school and was a NCAA Division II All-American for Central Washington University and currently coaches the Tonasket Middle School wrestlers as well as assisting Mitchell with the high school team.

The Tiger wrestlers will head over the mountains to the Tacoma Dome on Thursday for action that begins Friday, Feb. 15, at 10:00 a.m. Doors open to the public at 8:45.

Regional tournament bracket

About Brent Baker

Brent is a reporter for the Gazette-Tribune. Prior to working at the G-T, he was the sports editor for Sunrise Publishing from 2000-2005 in Michigan. He subsequently owned and operated Buckland Media, a high school sports website, in Michigan until 2010. He and his wife Kim, who have an adult son, moved to Tonasket in 2010. Brent started work at the G-T in 2011.

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