While Tahoma was busy dominating most of the field at the 4A wrestling districts at Thomas Jefferson High School on Feb. 11, Bellarmine and Mount Tahoma each claimed small victories by qualifying one wrestler for the upcoming Mat Classic this weekend.
The Thunderbirds' Jon Devine advanced to state by placing fourth in the 220-pound class, while the Lions' Taylor Ladenburg claimed fourth in the 160-pound bracket to earn the right to compete at the Tacoma Dome on Feb. 17-18.
"When I first came to Bellarmine, if you would have asked me if I was state-bound, I would not have an answer for you," said Ladenburg, a junior whose brother David wrestled at state last year as a senior. "It means a lot to me that I can follow in his footsteps and continue on the Ladenburg tradition."
After winning his first match by injury default, Ladenburg fell 5-4 to Kentwood's Jonathan Ohasi to drop to the consolation bracket. Facing a familiar foe in Gig Harbor's Ben Small, Ladenburg outlasted the Tides' senior 5-3, avoiding any threats of a takedown in the last minute.
"I think the biggest thing that worked for me is the conditioning. I had wrestled that guy in league for the championship (into the) fourth overtime. And he was just exhausted," Ladenburg said. "The coaches have me run, and I'm glad to do it, because this is one of those times when it comes in. The third round I was still breathing normally and going 100 percent."
"I'm really proud of him, and for a third-year wrestler, that's pretty darn good," said Bellarmine coach David Grisaffi.
Devine, a senior, qualified for state by defeating Mount Tahoma teammate Joey Gillies 35 seconds into their match in the semifinals of the 220-pound consolation bracket. Devine had earlier beaten Kentlake's Tyler Deskins 9-5 before falling to Kentwood's Matthew Herrick to setup the matchup against Gillies. Gillies later fell 5-4 to Deskins in the fifth-place matchup, while the Thunderbirds' Brandon Johnson wrestled in the 113-pound bracket and Joseph Roberts at 195 pounds, but both were eliminated after losing their first two matches.
Bellarmine's Brandon Kebba qualified as a state alternate in the 170-pound class after pinning Kentwood's Josh Boekelman in his first match and again in the fifth-place matchup. The Lions saw first-hand how tough district champion Tahoma was, though, as Ian Franz (106 pounds) and Louis Catiller (152) were each eliminated by Bears' wrestlers in the consolation bracket.
"We knew it was going to be really hard coming in here against the caliber and competition that's here," Grisaffi said. "For us to qualify our one, so we get to go the next meet, is kind of nice for all of us."
"I think it shows how we've come so far. Two years ago, we didn't have anyone go to state," Ladenburg said, adding that he's looking forward to the challenge this weekend. "No more learning new moves, I've got to finish what's in my arsenal right now."