Only one of Mount Baker’s numerous girls’ wrestling standouts knew exactly how many wins she has in the wake of a dizzying 17 days packed with three tournaments and three dual meets to open the season.
But each of the girls knows precisely how many losses she has. In most cases, it’s no more than two.
The Mountaineers flexed their considerable muscles with 20 pins while posting a 23-7 record with five titles to win Lynden’s second annual Pride of the Lady Lions Wrestling Invitational on Saturday, Dec. 20.
Baker amassed a whopping 164 points in the 20-team tournament to overcome impressive second- and third-place showings by Northwest Conference rivals Nooksack Valley (115) and Lynden (95).
One of Baker’s few seniors, Jessica Mata, turned in “the best match of the tournament,” as coach Clyde Blockley put it, with a thrilling 9-7 win over White River star Kendra Blue (now 9-2) at 130 pounds.
“I had pins in all four of my matches (including two Saturday) coming into that (title match),” said Mata, whose seventh place finish at state last season, following a fourth place the year before, has provided her with plenty of motivation.
“I feel I’m doing better (than ever),” Mata said. “I’m starting to do more things I did not do last year. I’m shooting (coming out aggressively) more than I ever have.”
Mata made a sacrifice last season, wrestling “up” five pounds to make room for teammates. This year, the state’s girls for the first time have a full 14 weights, just like the boys have had for years.
“Now my goal is to place higher than fourth at state,” she said, pleased to be back at her natural weight.
Baker juniors Natalie Smith (125), Marissa Amaranda (145) and Aniecea Camacho (155) claimed titles along with fast-rising sophomore Korbyn Cadle (120), who scored pins in both her matches. Smith and Camacho pinned all three opponents and Amaranda pinned her last two after opening with a 13-0 win.
“Just a great day,” said Blockley. “We came out ready to wrestle. We’re right where I think we should be.”
Four other Whatcom County schools had one champion apiece and local teams claimed 16 of the 28 finals spots in the burgeoning tournament, which attracted 148 wrestlers.
Blaine senior Olivia Adams (140) pinned all three opponents in the first round. That was no shock, considering that Adams, her school’s only female wrestler, finished third at state last year and followed by winning her second consecutive state pole vault title, leaping a school-record 11 feet, 9 inches last spring.
“I feel stronger this season,” Adams said. “I wrestled 130 last year. I might go 135 this year.”
The other three local champions were Lynden junior Krystal Cruz (now 7-2 at 100 pounds after taking two pins), Nooksack Valley junior Maria Cazares (8-1 at 105) and Sehome senior Lisa Hernandez (4-0 at 235).
“My name is always listed with a C but Krystal is spelled with a K,” said Cruz, soon won’t have to worry about being known. She came to Lynden this year after wrestling for the first time as a freshman and sophomore in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. “Now I wish I had grown up here, since girls are more dedicated here. They start wrestling so young here. I thought I would get my butt kicked when I first came here, but I’m feeling more confident now.”
Cruz, whose two losses came to Nooksack wrestlers, was also a cheerleader in Texas, but she has totally given that up in favor of wrestling training.
Cazares was thrilled to beat Lakewood’s talented Katie Kortekass (6-1). Cazares scored a late two-point reversal and held on to win 7-6 despite a point in the last seconds by Kortekass.
“That’s the first time I’ve beaten her in four matches. She’s the girl who denied me a place at state last year by one point,” said Cazares, who contributed as every Nooksack wrestler opened with a pin or a bye. “I’ve been thinking about missing state since last season. I have so much passion for wrestling.”
Hernandez, who had two pins, won by default over Baker junior Akemi Schwinden, who is recovering after blowing out a knee at state last season. Schwinden scored a pin in the semifinals in her only action.
Other local runners-up were Nooksack senior Yazmin San Juan (100), Lynden sophomore Kali Spady (135), Squalicum senior Mika Markishtum (140), Baker senior Bailey White (145), Lynden junior Thalia Veliz (170) and Nooksack senior Kaleiolani Jefferson, who defaulted with a painful arm injury.
PRIDE OF THE LADY LIONS INVITATIONAL