TACOMA DOME – Close matches are the norm at the state wrestling finals, and the four Tonasket wrestlers competing last Feb. 17-18 at the Tacoma Dome seemed to wrestle more than their share of battles that went to the wire.
Jared Stedtfeld, the lone senior of the four, was the only one to come home with a state medal. But all earned at least one state tournament victory and coach Dave Mitchell said his team is already looking forward to next year.
“It’s always like that (with close matches) when you get here,” Mitchell said. “You need to win close matches, and we didn’t quite win enough of them.
“But there’s nothing like experience, and the guys are hungry and excited about next year.”
Jared Stedtfeld (113 pounds) earned a fourth-place finish, surviving a tough 9-6 decision in his first-round match and pinning Jordan Booth of Castle Rock in his quarterfinal.
His semifinal match was another matter. Joshua Salcedo of Granger – who dominated the bracket and easily won the state title – pinned Stedtfeld in the second round. He bounced back to beat his regional championship opponent, Hoodie Judd, 15-1, then fell 4-2 to another Granger wrestler, Ricky Almaguer, in the third place match.
“I didn’t want to go out with a loss,” Stedtfeld said of his final match. “I’d much rather have gotten third. Salcedo (in the semifinals) was tough, I’ve lost to him before at state.
“But overall, to go from not placing (last year) to getting fourth, I feel pretty dang good.”
Mitchell said that Stedtfeld set the tone for what the team accomplished this year.
“He was the hardest worker on the team this year, without question,” he said. “He was the one coming in before school for extra work just about every day. After awhile it started catching on with the other guys. The extra work really paid off for him.”
Christian Diaz (106), Collin Aitcheson (120) and Jeffrey Stedtfeld (126) each won a match, though they didn’t reach the medal stand.
Diaz, a freshman, continued his surprising post-season run, from second-string to one match away from being a state medalist. An 11-7 overtime loss was all that separated him from the top eight.
“He battled back (from a 5-2 deficit) to force overtime, but he’s a first-year wrestler,” Mitchell said. “The other guy is a junior that’s been around, and he got him when he got the chance. But I can’t say enough good things about Christian and how far he’s come.”
The sophomore Aitcheson fell behind early in his opener against Zillah’s Juan Diaz and eventually lost 9-2 to the eventual third-place medalist. He came back to pin Montesano’s Ryan Wood, but fell behind again against Tanner Klemann of Nooksack and got pinned while trying to get back in the match late.
“He fell behind right away against a guy who likes his throws, and it’s hard to make up that much ground,” Mitchell said of that final match. “He was chipping away, and then had to take some chances and got caught in another throw. He needed some points and got caught out of position.”
Jeffrey Stedtfeld, a junior, was pinned in his opening match, came back to beat Tyler Blankenship of Orting 10-3 in an elimination match, and bowed out with a 10-5 loss to Elma’s Tanner Sample that was in doubt until the final seconds.
“That last match was a lot closer than the score,” Mitchell said. “He got down and took some chances at the end that made the score look worse than it was.”
Mitchell said that watching the growth of his youthful team, which included nine freshmen, six sophomores and several first-year juniors — as well as just one other experienced senior, Ryker Marchand — made for a rewarding season.
“This year we had so many young guys,” he said. “But the new guys bought into our philosophy of doing things. They worked their butts off and they got to see some results from all that work.
“The guys that were out at regionals, or that didn’t place at state, they worked very hard. They got that far because of how much extra work they put in. It was a good lesson for all of them not just in wrestling, but for all things. The extra work will always pay off.”