Bellingham senior Sergio Torres immediately made the most of a new state high school wrestling rules wrinkle to compete in five matches on the same day at the George Yonlick Tournament.
The result: five pins and perhaps the most cheers for anyone in season-opening action at the Bellingham gym Saturday, Dec. 6.
“Most states don’t have any match limit, but Washington has had a 33-match limit for individuals before sub-regionals until this season,” said Bellingham coach Tom Hinz. “But now it’s 45 matches before sub-regionals, so we don’t have to sit guys out (now and then) and worry the way we used to.”
Torres, a two-time state qualifier still seeking his first medal, likes the new rule because it left the 132-pounder “feeling pretty confident.”
“The Toppenish guy was pretty tough and I didn’t pin him until the third round,” said Torres, who went 1-2 at Class 2A state the past two seasons. “But the other four pins were in the first round.”
Torres — who helped Bellingham to a 3-1 record plus competition against a team of wrestlers from several schools — acknowledged it was a long day, albeit one that lasted less than six hours on the mats.
“I was actually falling asleep before my fifth match,” the soft-spoken standout said with a grin.
Hinz wasn’t the least bit shocked by Torres’ pin-fest.
“Not at all,” said Hinz, who is in his seventh season as head coach. “Sergio is really good. He‘s doing great.”
Torres, though, was far from the only standout for the Red Raiders, who lost a lopsided match to state title contender Toppenish but finished 3-1 with wins over Anacortes 48-36, La Conner 48-18 and Burlington Edison 42-33. Glacier Peak finished unbeaten with a win over Toppenish, technically giving the Red Raiders third place in the low-key season-opening tournament.
Hinz noted that seniors Riley Takemura (126) and Blair Bennett (170) — who like Torres went 1-2 at state last season — both finished 4-1 in the Yonlick, which is held in memory of the late, legendary Bellingham coach. Hinz was also gratified to see freshman Simeon Murphy (120) finish a promising 3-2.
“Riley lost to a state runner-up from Toppenish in a close 7-3 match,” said Hinz, who is encouraged by his turnout. “I’m happy. This was a good day. We have 26 wrestlers, but they’re not just 26 bodies. They’re 26 really athletic guys.”
The only other Whatcom County entrant with a complete team, Class 1A Nooksack Valley, went 1-3 with losses to higher-classification teams Glacier Peak, Marysville-Getchell and Anacortes.
Nooksack’s most experienced wrestler, three-time state meet veteran Taylor Gardner, went 3-1 with one pin.
“Taylor is a state title contender and definitely (a strong bet for) top three,” said 21-year-old Pioneers assistant coach Trevor Parson, who took the team since his father, head coach Chad Parson, was busy with the Royal Rumble girls’ tournament at Nooksack.
“I’ve gone 1-2 at state all three years,” said Gardner, Nooksack’s captain and only experienced senior. “Now I want to win state at 152 (he weighed in at 160 Saturday).”
Gardner said that seeing older sister Chloe Gardner — who was on hand as a fan and now has a softball scholarship at Skagit Valley College — win a state girls’ title last year inspired him.
“I saw how Chloe’s hard work paid off … that state championship will stay with her forever and I want that same feeling,” he said.
Parson also praised sophomore Joseph Jefferson, who went 2-2 at 145. “He really has a lot of potential,” the young coach said.
Mount Baker, guided by first-year head coach Roger Goodwin, has one of its youngest teams ever. The coach has 18 wrestlers now in turnouts — four wrestled at the Yonlick — but he has no seniors and only three experienced juniors.
That’s why state meet veteran, J.T. Keeney (195), one of those juniors, feels good about being thrust into a leadership role earlier than he expected when he turned out as a freshman.
“We have a good group of young kids who want to work hard,” said Keeney, who went 3-1 Saturday and feels especially positive about “how wrestling teaches life’s lessons.
“I feel like I really want to help keep up our wrestling tradition at Mount Baker,“ the three-sport standout said. “I feel very positive. My goal is to get to state again (he went 1-2 last year). Whatever happens, I want to be able to leave the mat knowing I gave it all I have.”
Goodwin was also impressed by the potential of sophomore Jesus Torerro, who went 2-2.
“I feel good abut what they’re doing,” Goodwin said. “They’re willing to try new things.”