Year after year, Mount Baker’s girls’ wrestling is the premier team in the Northwest Conference. Nooksack Valley is hoping to change that and showed it might be pretty close to unseating the Mountaineers as the powerhouse of the NWC on Wednesday, Jan. 7, at Nooksack Valley High School.
After finishing just a point better than 9th-place Mount Baker in last year’s state tournament, the Pioneers won four of the seven matches wrestled Wednesday by pin but fell 42-30 after forfeiting the final three weight classes.
“We always look at Baker as a measuring bar. They’re up here and we’re climbing that bar,” Nooksack coach Chad Parson said after Wednesday’s match. “We’re on Baker’s heels and last year we did place higher than them at state. We were very happy to walk away with that and we’re going to do the same thing this year.”
Leading the way for the Pioneers on Wednesday was Emma Bruntil at the 120-pound weight class, who went three rounds with Baker’s Korbyn Cadle before getting the pin with in a match that likely could have gone either way.
In the first round, the pair exchanged a pair of points within 10 seconds of each other before Cadle was able to get an escape and takedown in the second round.
In the third, Bruntil started on the bottom and worked her way to the pin in just 39 seconds.
“We did not expect that win from her tonight but she pulled that off,” Parson said. “She’s incredibly strong.”
Making Bruntil’s success Wednesday even more exciting for the Pioneers is that she’s only a freshman and is in just her first year wrestling.
“She a natural,” Parson said. “We love to have her in our ranks. She has definitely pulled her weight with the team.”
On the other side of the mat, it was also a first-year wrestler that showed off her skills.
The Mountaineers’ Taylor Van Brocklin at 140 picked up a pin in buzzer-beating fashion, edging out Nooksack’s Emily Parson with just .2 seconds left on the clock in the first round.
“I try not to look at the clock and I try to finish what I’m doing before I pay attention to anything else,” Van Brocklin said. “It goes by so fast, I think I have a lot more time than I really do, so I just try to get it done as quickly as possible.”
Van Brocklin, who admits she isn’t as experienced as a lot of wrestlers out there and still gets “frazzled” in matches, is hoping to make state this year and she just might have the talent to do it.
The junior has a talent not many wrestlers have, Baker coach Clyde Blockley said.
“She’s very aggressive. That’s one thing you can’t teach a kid,” Blockley said. aggressive. “She has that. She hates to lose and that’s pretty much it.”
Other pins for Nooksack included Maria Cazares at 105, Nicole Whittern at 110 and Fabiana Hernandez at 135.
Hernandez’s pin came with some extra emotional attachment. On a night when Nooksack Valley honored its four seniors and their family with flowers and a few words from the PA announcer, Hernandez got to wrestle with her parents just feet away on a black couch Nooksack set on the side of the mat.
Hernandez was the only Nooksack senior who got to wrestle Wednesday and she made the most of it.
After getting taken down 20 seconds into the match by Baker’s Kaitlynn Howard, Hernandez was able to battle back and score a 2-point reversal with just 21 seconds left in the first round. In the second round, despite starting on the bottom, it took Hernandez just over a minute to get the pin.
“Fabi stepped up tonight as well,” Parson said. “She’s had a little lull in her season this year. Hopefully this is a turning point for her and she focuses like we need her to and she marches away with her team to state.”
On the Mountaineers’ side, it was a disappointing night despite the dual meet win. Along with Van Brocklin, the Mountaineers picked up pins from Natalie Smith (125) and Jessica Mata (130) but coach Blockley wasn’t pleased with the overall team effort.
“I didn’t think we wrestled great tonight. I think we can wrestle a lot better,” Blockley said. “A couple of the girls came out and didn’t believe they could win. That was pretty much the bottom line — they weren’t ready to go.”
The Northwest Conference Championships await both teams on Saturday, Jan. 10, at Nooksack Valley High School but all eyes are toward February.
“We’ve got one thing in mind right now,” Parson said. “We’re not so concerned about our regular season, we’re more concerned about focusing on postseason. The girls showed what they’re about tonight. They are focused on postseason and everything in between now and then are just speed bumps.”
Mount Baker 42, Nooksack Valley 30
100: Yazmin SanJuan-Morales (Nooksack Valley) forfeit; 105: Maria Cazares (Nooksack Valley) pin Mia Villaluz 1:46; 110: Nicole Whittern (Nooksack Valley) pin Michelle Mata 1:57; 115: Double forfeit; 120: Emma Bruntil (Nooksack Valley) pin Korbyn Cadle 4:39; 125: Natalie Smith (Mount Baker) pin Miana Rabang 3:26; 130: Jessica Mata (Mount Baker) pin Delaney Cop 2:29; 135: Fabiana Hernandez (Nooksack Valley) pin Kaitlynn Howard 3:00; 140: Taylor Van Brocklin (Mount Baker) pin Emily Parson 1:59; 145: Marissa Amarando (Mount Baker) pin Becca Averys 2:44; 155: Rachel Nichols (Mount Baker) forfeit; 170: Aniecea Camacho (Mount Baker) forfeit; 190: Double forfeit; 235: Akemi Schwinden (Mount Baker) forfeit.