Local wrestlers punch ticket to Dome

// Veterans, youth get first shots at state

Patiole Pesefea found himself in a pivotal spot in his 285-pound match in the 3A wrestling regionals. Tied 1-1 with Timberline’s Cole Stevens in the second round of the consolation bracket – with a berth in the Mat Classic on the line – the Foss senior got a last-second takedown for the victory, becoming one of seven Tacoma wrestlers to advance at the regionals on Feb. 9 at Bonney Lake High School.

“I didn’t want to quit,” said Pesefea, who went on to beat Auburn-Mountainview’s Dakota Weir to claim third place. “I’ve worked these past couple months really hard to get here. I wasn’t going to (go through all that) if I’m not going to state, because I want to be there and I deserve to be there after all the hard work I put in at practice.”

That was a common theme for several local wrestlers, as others punched their inaugural ticket to Tacoma Dome for this weekend’s Mat Classic after falling short in recent years.

After winning his first matchup over Decatur’s Justin Robinson, Mount Tahoma’s Joey Gillies found himself dropping to the consolation bracket after a loss to Timberline’s defending state champ Stone Hart in the 220-pound semifinals. But the Thunderbirds’ senior pinned Lincoln’s B.J. Hawthorne 32 seconds into the third round to earn his trip to state, and later topped Wilson’s Tanner Colburn – who beat Gillies the prior week at the league tournament – to earn third place.

“It feels great, man,” said Gillies, who lost to senior teammate Jon Devine at the 4A regionals last year to fall just short of a state berth. “That definitely helped me out for this year. (Devine) was like a lot of these wrestlers out here. Big, strong and heavy…that’s what I’ve got to watch out for now.”

Colburn – a freshman who has shown serious potential in the last few weeks for the Rams – had outlasted Robinson 4-3 in the consolation semifinals to earn his first trip to state.

Lincoln senior Juan Vicente – who earned his first state trip after being an alternate last year – headlined a trio of Abes that advanced to Tacoma Dome, outlasting Foss’ Joseph Wurtz 12-8 in the semifinals of the 126-pound consolation bracket on his way to taking fourth place.

“It was a tough match,” said Vicente, who fought through an ankle injury in his first match of the day and a bloody nose in the bout against Wurtz. “It’s going to be tough (at the state meet), but I’m going to go hard.”

Lincoln junior teammate Keidrick O’Bannon topped Wilson’s Chris Neiman 7-3 in the consolation semifinals at 170 pounds to punch his state ticket, getting a key takedown midway through the third round to pull away.

“I feel like I made a lot of people happy, including myself,” said O’Bannon, who had won 10-2 over Decatur’s Christian Napper-Mercer before falling 3-1 to Enumclaw’s Falani Gill to drop to the consolation bracket. “It wasn’t easy though. It took a lot of hard work.”

Abes freshman Avery Meyer also earned a spot at the Mat Classic, ripping off a pair of 4-2 wins in the 120-pound consolation bracket over Enumclaw senior Garrett Jarosz and North Thurston senior Justin Savard to take third place.

Wilson senior Jake Ferris – the defending state 195-pound runner-up – delivered the lone title for Tacoma wrestlers on the day by pinning Auburn-Mountainview’s Kalvin Saxby in his first match, winning 14-4 over Timberline’s Tanner Risk in the semifinals and topping Decatur’s Rowland Gaydosh 5-3 in a tight-knit final.

The Mat Classic at Tacoma Dome begins on Feb. 15 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. It continues on Feb. 16 from 10 a.m. to 2:15 p.m., with the finals to take place at 5:15 p.m.

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