COLVILLE – It may well be the most intense weekend on the high school wrestling calendar.
The Tonasket Tigers did their best to keep the tension ratcheted up for their fans who trekked to Colville for the state-qualifying Class 1A Region IV tournament on Saturday, Feb. 11.
Four Tigers wrapped up state finals bids and two more will join them at the Tacoma Dome this weekend as alternates, but the 10 hour tournament to determine who would get those coveted spots was a rollercoaster of emotion for those involved.
The Tigers were involved in what seemed like an endless succession of matches that came down to the final whistle or involved last-second reversals of fortune, both good and bad.
“I haven’t felt that worn out in a long time,” said Tonasket coach Dave Mitchell. “It’s always kind of like that (at regionals), but this year it sure seemed like we had more than our share of those.”
The Tigers’ two district champions – Jared Stedtfeld and Christian Diaz – both defended their top seedings to earn state finals spots.
Stedtfeld (113 pounds) dominated his first two matches and held off Lakeside’s Darius “Hoodie” Judd for an 8-4 regional title match victory. Judd finished fifth last year at state while wrestling at 103.
Stedtfeld was aggressive right from the start, building a 6-0 first period lead
“That was definitely my goal,” Stedtfeld said of his regional championship. “I wrestled him last year and lost by a point. I’ve wanted this since I took second place (at regionals) last year. I wanted to be aggressive and wrestle my kind of match, and I felt like I did that.
“It’s amazing. I’m really happy.”
Diaz (106) finished fourth and is the Tigers’ biggest surprise of the post-season. Diaz entered last week’s district tournament as the fourth seed but upset Okanogan’s top-seeded Payton Anthony and went on to win the district title over the Bulldogs’ Randy Hamilton with an 8-7 victory.
Diaz and Hamilton went at it again in the consolation semifinals with a trip to state on the line. Diaz led most of the match, but needed an escape with 15 seconds remaining to get away with a 3-2 victory.
“He and (teammate Tim) Frazier were really close all year,” Mitchell said. “He’s a first-year wrestler that’s nowhere near where he was a couple of months ago. And when you have a bracket that’s mostly freshmen, just about anything can happen.”
Frazier had been eliminated by Hamilton in 4-2 in one of several Tiger heartbreakers.
One of the day’s top matches ended with sophomore Collin Aitcheson (120) earning his first state tournament spot with a 10-8 victory over Chelan’s Cleider Guillen. Aitcheson trailed 8-6 late in the third period and seemed firmly under Guillen’s control before scoring a reversal and two-point near fall in the final five seconds for the win.
Aitcheson went on to pin Aaron Buckley of Colville to finish third, the second-highest Tonasket placing.
“(At the end) I just gave everything I had,” Aitcheson said. “Win or lose, I wanted to give God the glory.
“There were a few things I tried, a few freshman things I probably shouldn’t have done. The third place match, I felt pretty good about. I felt pretty in control of that one.”
“I must have looked up at the clock four times in the last 15 seconds (of the elimination match),” Mitchell said. “It was a nailbiter. Those (mistakes) are fine as long as you learn from them.”
Jeffrey Stedtfeld (126) recovered from a first round pin to pick up a pin himself in his first elimination match, then came back from an early 4-1 deficit to beat Colville’s Josh Hamilton 17-7 and earn his trip to state. Stedtfeld finished fourth.
Finishing fifth and earning alternate state spots were Dalton Wahl (132), who pinned Cashmere’s James Stolhammer to earn alternate status; and Frank Holfelz (195), who also had a pin in his fifth place match.
Quinn Mirick (160) and Chad Edwards (285) each won a match and placed sixth.
Exchange students Marwin Baron (113) and Levan Sabahktorashvik (120)(announced as “Levan from Georgia” at most meets this year) each lost both of their matches.
Ryker Marchand (126), struggling with a shoulder injury, was unable to win a match but avoided being pinned in his two bouts. John Rawley (182) was pinned in both his matches, the second tough one to take after leading most of the match and getting stuck in the final seconds.
“That was probably the toughest one,” Mitchell said. “His match, (Frazier’s) final match, Dalton Wahl … if they wrestled those again I feel pretty good about their chances of having those go the other way.
“We had a lot of guys coming in (Monday) before school working out, not just the state guys,” he added. “On one hand, some of the guys are disappointed, but on the other they know they were close. They made it to regionals and in a lot of cases were seconds away from going to state, and the extra practice will only make them better.
“It’s a very young team, not just a lot of freshmen, but a lot of first-year guys. It makes things unpredictable.”
That includes what could happen at the Tacoma Dome this weekend, starting Friday at 10 a.m.
“The guys who are fourth seeded have some pretty tough matches to start off,” Mitchell said. “Other than that it’s hard to say what will happen. We’ll just have to see.”