BELLINGHAM - Chelsey Howard, a 4-foot-111/2-inch, 100-pound senior at Bellingham, has hungered to find a sport in which she could succeed since she was a freshman.
Olivia Adams, an aggressive 130-pound sophomore, is Blaine's only girl wrestler.
Recognition has come hard for those two, but they grabbed their share and more by winning championships at the Girls' Northwest District Sub-Regional Tournament on Saturday, Feb. 2, at Bellingham.
Meanwhile, team champion Mount Baker and runner-up Nooksack Valley claimed three individual titles apiece, as the Mountaineers (267 points) and Pioneers (185) combined for 452 points while the other 14 schools together had 649. Lynden finished fourth with 142.5.
In short, it was a banner day for Whatcom County schools, whose wrestlers claimed 30 of the 48 spots available for the Regional Tournament on Saturday, Feb. 9, at Sedro-Woolley by finishing in the top four of their respective weight classes this week.
Howard, a second-year wrestler, scored a pin with 56 seconds remaining in the 100-pound championship match over Burlington-Edison's Korrin McCutchin after taking a 7-0 lead.
"I don't think I would have believed it," said Howard, when asked if she ever thought she could claim the 2013 distinction of being the most successful girl wrestler among the three Bellingham high schools.
"When I started high school, I tried tennis, but it didn't work out," said Howard, who listed her season record as 20-4. "Mr. (Tom) Hinz (Bellingham's head wrestling coach) convinced me I'd be perfect for wrestling. He was so right. I've found I love the competition. I have really pushed myself to succeed."
Adams took a wild 12-11 triple-overtime victory over Mount Baker senior Megan Young in a 130-pound match that showed both possess state medal potential.
"I've never gone into overtime," said Adams, who went 1-2 at state as a freshman. "She (Young) was pretty tough. I had never wrestled her."
Adams preserved her chance for the victory with an escape in the final seconds of regulation, tying the match at 11-all. The first two overtimes were scoreless, but Adams managed an escape 15 seconds from the end of the third overtime and held on.
Baker's winners were freshman Natalie Smith (118), who pinned Oak Harbor's Zaiha Sams; sophomore Jessica Mata (124), who pinned Nooksack's Alberta Garcia; and senior Aysha Schwinden, who decisioned La Conner's Frances Zeimantz 3-1.
Baker coach Clyde Blockley confirmed it was "a great day" as the Mountaineers dominated the sub-regional while claiming 12 berths in next week's regional and keeping their hopes alive for a high state finish.
Nooksack Valley coach Michelle Dekoekkoek could say the same, not to mention becoming one of the state's few female wrestling coaches with a daughter who has won a title. Junior Kylee Dekoekkoek scored a first-round pin over Mount Baker's Lacy Cannon.
"Mom's cool," said Kylee, who listed her record as 27-6. "She's helped coach me since seventh grade. I was confident I could win, but I had to shake off a flood of bad memories when I walked in the gym. It was here where I broke my collarbone last year in the regionals and I missed not only state wrestling, but the whole softball season."
Nooksack junior Chloe Gardner, fourth at state last year in her first wrestling season, won the 137-pound title over Mount Baker's Ivy Locke with a pin in 42 seconds. Nooksack freshman Amber Cramsey-Behnke claimed 235-pound honors by injury default over Lynden's Lisa Hernandez.
"I'm really proud of our team," Gardner said. "We had more than twice as many regional qualifiers this year (nine) than we had wrestlers on our team last year, when we had four girls."
Gardner grinned when asked why she decided to wrestle for the first time last year.
"My friend Alex Parson (who was third at 118 pounds) asked me to be the wrestling manager, but I thought it would be better to be a wrestler than to have to clean up the place," Gardner said.
Now Gardner is cleaning up on the mats.
Other Whatcom County second-place finishers were Mount Baker freshman Aniecea Camacho, who was pinned by Burlington-Edison's Quincy Gunderson at 155, and Mount Baker senior Jamie Vander Yacht, who was pinned by LaConner's Amber Drye.
Local third-place regional qualifiers were Nooksack's Maria Cazares (100); Lynden's Natalie Martinez (106); Nooksack's Parson (118); Nooksack's Toni York (130), Mount Baker's Sylvia Lynch (137); Squalicum's Taryn Rogers (155) and Mount Baker's Akemi Schwinden (235).
These local fourth-placers also kept their state dreams alive by qualifying for regionals: Mount Baker's Nicole Boardman (112); Lynden's Gabriela Herrera (124); Mount Baker's Heidi Chambers (130); Nooksack's Fabiana Hernandez (137); Nooksack's Kandice O'Bryan (145); Lynden's Thalia Veliz (170); Lynden's Alexus Magana (190) and Lynden's Felicity Strain (235).
NORTHWEST DISTRICT SUB-REGIONAL TOURNAMENT
(Top four qualify for Regional Tournament)
Team scores: Mount Baker 267, 2. Nooksack Valley 185, 3. Burlington-Edison 149, 4. Lynden 142.5, 5. Oak Harbor 84, 6. Concrete 59.5, 7. La Conner 42, 8. Granite Falls 40, 9. Bellingham 31, 10. 10. Blaine 26, 11. Squalicum 23, 12. Friday Harbor 22, 13. Darrington 19.5, 14. Meridian 8, 15. Sehome 3, 16. Anacortes 0.
Championship matches - 100: Chelsey Howard (Bell) p. Korrin McCutcheon (Burl) 5:04; 106: Danielle Crawford (GF) p. Emilee Fenley (Concrete) 1:14; 112: Casandra Becerra (Burl) p. Kaylen Meeker (FH) 4:57; 118: Natalie Smith (MB) p. Zaiha Sams (OH) 4:49; 124: Jessica Mata (MB) p. Alberta Garcia (NV) 3:12; 130: Olivia Adams (Blaine) 3 OT dec. over Megan Young (MB) 12-11; 137: Chloe Gardner (NV) p. Ivy Locke (MB) 0:42; 145: Kylee Dekoekkoek (NV) p. Lacy Cannon (MB) 1:12; 155: Quincy Gunderson (Burl) p.Aniecea Camacho (MB) 5:12; 170: Amber Drye (LC) p. Jamie Vander Yacht (MB) 4:55; 190: Aysha Schwinden (MB) dec. Frances Zeimantz (LC) 3-1; 235: Amber Cramsey-Behnke (NV) by injury default over Lisa Hernandez (Lynden).