Mount Baker’s girls’ wrestling team has dominated almost every tournament it’s participated in this year.
At the biggest stage, most, including Mountaineers’ coach Clyde Blockley, figured Mat Classic XXVII wouldn’t provide the same resounding successes.
“I figure we’d have two wrestlers in the semifinals,” Blockley said.
Instead, the Mountaineers put four in the semis.
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Natalie Smith (120 pounds), Jessica Mata (130), Rachel Nichols (145) and Akemi Schwinden (235) all won their two matches Friday, Feb. 20, at the Tacoma Dome, to stay in the hunt for an individual title.
But an individual title isn’t the only thing Baker is after.
The Mountaineers are well positioned for a team title, sitting in first with 60 points, sitting 14.5 points above Centralia going into the final day.
For Baker, experience paid off and the Mountaineers’ wrestlers were able to build on past experience inside the crazy atmosphere of the Dome
Smith, making her third appearance at state, finally got past the hurdle of winning her second match, pinning Yelm’s Hailey Meyers in the second round.
“If I won it, I knew I’d be done,” Smith said. “The last two years I’ve lost my second match. I really wanted to get it done this year and be done for the day and rest.”
Mata, Baker’s lone senior, wanted to make it three straight years placing at the state tournament and wasn’t going to let being sick stop her from competing in her senior year. She picked up a pin in the first round before barely surviving a 6-5 win over White River’s Kendra Blue to make the semifinals.
“It was kind of hard because I got sick this morning,” Mata said. “I wanted to get through it because it was my senior year so I tried whatever I could to win.”
Schwinden made it to state last year but exited the tournament due to injury. She was anxious to participate this year, but picked up two pins to make the semifinals.
“I was a little nervous from my first one because that’s when it happened but once I got over it, I felt a lot better,” Schwinden said. “I was ready to go.”
It was also experience that got Blaine’s Olivia Adams into the semifinals. Adams got a second-round pin in her first match before holding on to a 5-3 win in her quarterfinal match over Pasco’s Hailey Hall.
Adams is a four-time state participant and placed third last year. She’s already looking toward Saturday’s match against Kelso’s Mariah Horton, as Adams hopes to finish better than last year.
“I have to work really hard, get lots of sleep tonight,” Adams said. “I need to work really hard in that match, remember what its for.”
While the veterans made their moves into the semifinals, it was a pair of first-timers that also impressed in their two wins to get to the second day without a loss.
Baker’s Nichols got a 15-2 win and a second-round pin on her way to the semis while Nooksack Valley freshman Emma Bruntil (120) got a pin and a 12-8 win in her first day at the state championships.
Despite wrestling for the first time this year, Bruntil has cruised through the postseason thus far. The biggest stages seem to leave the multi-sport athlete unphased.
“I’ve been to state for horses and I recently won state this year,” Bruntil said. “I’m used to performing on a big stage. It’s just a little different because this is the biggest stage there is in the whole country.”
With both Bruntil, who was the only Pioneer to advance to day two, and Smith advancing to the second day undefeated, it poses a possible rematch of the sub-regionals and regional tournaments, in which Bruntil and Smith met in the finals.
“In a perfect world, we’d love to see Emma and Natalie in the finals against each other for the third time this postseason,” Nooksack coach Chad Parson said.
Lynden’s Alexus Garcia (170), Baker’s Taylor Van Brocklin (135) and Aneicea Camacho (155) and Sehome’s Lisa Hernandez (235) all made it to the second day and will be competing for a medal on Saturday at the Tacoma Dome.