Mount Baker’s girls’ wrestling team may look back on Mat Classic XXVII and wonder how.
How did a 14.5-point lead going into the second day dissipate? How did the Mountaineers fall just 1/2 a point short of a team title?
After putting four girls in the semifinals and moving six into day two, Baker took a big lead into the events at the Tacoma Dome on Saturday, Feb. 21.
That lead dwindled throughout the day before Grandview’s Desiree Zavala picked up a pin in the 140-pound championship, giving Grandview 87.5 points and a narrow team victory over the Mountaineers, who had 87 points, tied for second with Todd Beamer.
Never miss a local story.
Natalie Smith (120 pounds) was the only Baker girl who made the championship round and a win would have given her team a victory.
But Smith was just a few seconds too slow and lost 5-3 to now three-time state champion Puyallup’s Jordyn Bartelson in the championship match.
“It’s really tough. Coming in at the end of yesterday and even the beginning of today, we were just so excited with how we’d done,” Smith said. “We had six girls here going to place today. We were really hoping to go out and get the wins but it was a lot of tough competition so not everybody was able to do that.”
The Mountaineers knew they had fallen short after Smith’s championship match, they just didn’t know how close they were.
Since the Mat Classic added a girls’ division in 2007, Mount Baker has been a staple in the top ten.
In 2008, the Mountaineers took home a team title and ever since, have been looking to repeat that performance.
“Our goal is the state championship,” Baker coach Clyde Blockley said. “Every year we keep trying for it and keep pressing hard.”
And the Mountaineers had another championship in sight at Mat Classic XXVII.
Smith started things off on the right foot for the Mountaineers Saturday morning.
She got a second-round pin of Skyview’s Caitlin Horrocks, who had beat Smith in last year’s Mat Classic, in the semifinals to advance to the championship match.
“That was the greatest feeling winning my semifinal match,” Smith said. “I just went out in that one really being confident in my moves and knowing I could get it.”
After Smith’s semifinal match was when it all started to slip away for Baker.
First, the Mountaineers’ lone senior, Jessica Mata (130), lost a 6-1 match to White Swan’s Gladdys Palma.
After a patient first round ended 0-0 and a Palma second-round escape, Mata entered the final round down 1-0 and on the bottom. An escape for Mata would tie it up.
Unfortunately for the Mountaineers, Mata’s escape came after Palma picked up three points from a near fall.
“I think when I’m on bottom, I have to move my legs more,” Mata said. “That’s where she got her points or else we would have been tied. But it was a close match, so I thought I did pretty great. I’m not so bummed about it.”
Mata eventually went on to take third place after a narrow 8-7 victory, in which Mata’s three near-fall points were awarded after the final whistle, put her in the third-fourth place match and in position to end her career on a high note.
She pinned White River’s Kendra Blue with just 11.7 seconds left on the clock. At the time, the pin was an added bonus to the Mountaineers looking for a team title.
“I just gave it my all. It was the last match of my high school career. I just tried my butt off and that’s why I got a pin,” Mata said. “We want to get first here as a team. I was thinking I have to pin her so I can get more points.”
Rachel Nichols was pinned just 48 seconds into her semifinal match and then suffered consecutive losses on her way to a sixth-place finish.
Akemi Schwinden (235) followed suit in her semifinal contest, getting pinned by defending state champion Enumclaw’s KC Moulden in 1 minute, 12 seconds.
Schwinden won her consolation semifinal 7-4 over Todd Beamer’s Hailie Parker, as the Mountaineer picked up an escape and takedown in the third period.
She was then pinned by Centralia’s Ryan Gibbons just 10 seconds into the third-fourth place match.
With only one of Baker’s four semifinalists making the championship, a team title appeared to be in doubt despite Baker’s standing atop the leaderboard, in which they held until the 140-pound championship match.
“I was definitely hoping to have one or two,” Smith said of her team only getting one girl from the semifinals to the championships. “It would have been great to have all of us there but it was a little disappointing to not have anyone warming up with me for the finals.”
Baker’s other day-two placers were Taylor Van Brocklin (135), who lost both her matches for an eighth-place finish, and Aneicea Camacho (155), who also finished eighth.
“We came out and we battled,” Blockley said. “We knew it was going to be hard. We had a great day yesterday that set us up for today. I knew it was going to be really tough today but they all came out and battled hard. I’m proud of them.”
Even though Baker didn’t win the team title, Blockley believes his squad proved a lot of people wrong this season.
“The girls had a great weekend. Nobody figured we would even be on the board this year,” Blockley said. “At the beginning of the year, I thought we had a chance and then we went on. I thought we could all along. Nobody else thought we could but I thought we had a top ten team all year.”
The Mountaineers are also set up well for the future. Baker only has one senior from its state participants departing the team.
“Next year, I think should be a great year. We should have everyone who was here this year minus our one senior, Jessica (Mata),” Smith said. “I think we could have at least four more here placing next year. I’m really hoping we can take it then.”
Korbyn Cadle (115) and Michelle Mata (100) also made the state team for Baker this year, but lost both matches on their first day.