High School Sports

21 locals advance in Class 1A sub-regional

Jeremiah Cronk wasn’t at all unhappy to face the heaviest workload of any champion in the Class 1A boys’ sub-regional wrestling tournament.

After all, his three wins on Saturday, Feb. 7, gave the 145-pound Mount Baker junior a better chance to hone his skills after missing several weeks with an injury. It also gave him a chance to make a bigger name for himself.

Meanwhile, 285-pound champion Tyson Mergel of Nooksack Valley earned his first victory in a rivalry with Mount Baker sophomore Kole Hickey that could become legendary by the time they are seniors.

All told, 21 Whatcom County wrestlers snagged one of the top four spots in the 14 weight classes to advance to the regional round at Meridian on Friday and Saturday, Feb. 13-14.

Sultan proved overpowering, winning the team title with 368 points to runner-up Nooksack’s 196 and third-place Mount Baker’s 103 points among the six schools represented.

The future, however, seems solid for the locals, since only two of the 21 regional qualifiers are seniors.

Cronk’s day included a 39-second pin, a 17-4 decision and a 5-3 win over Sultan sophomore Cory Martinez in the finals. It just so happened that the 145-pound division was among the most crowded in a small tournament.

“Jeremiah did some of his best wrestling today,” said Baker coach Roger Goodwin. “He really wrestled well.”

Cronk was thrilled to be healthier than he has been since he hyper-extended a toe late in December.

“I was out about three weeks but I’m about 95 percent today,” Cronk said. “My goal is to get to state and make the top four. My dad (former Baker wrestler Lawrence Cronk) didn’t get to compete at state, so he really wants to see me make it.”

Cronk, a young co-captain along with fellow junior JT Keeney, has so many older cousins that his last name has long since become familiar to local fans.

But Cronk is making a name for himself now with a quality win-loss record.

“I’ve lost (only) about eight matches this season. I don’t think about records,” he said. “I’m just focused on what I know I need to do to improve and get to state. I’ve got to work on staying off my knees, keeping my head up and improving my takedowns.”

Mergel’s improvement, highlighted by a pin in 1:24 over Baker’s Hickey in the 285-pound finals, has impressed Nooksack Valley coach Chad Parson.

“From where Tyson started out this season to being where he is now, he’s a completely different wrestler,” said Parson. “His aggressiveness and technique are so much better.”

Mergel’s title pin was a milestone toward improving his confidence.

“That’s the first time I’ve beaten him,” Mergel said of Hickey. “He beat me once last year and once earlier this season. What did surprise me was getting the pin in the first round. I thought it would go two or three rounds. Having a guy that good to push me really helps me to grow as a wrestler.”

Mergel had a first-round bye followed by a pin in 3:16 over Sultan’s Dylan Kole. Now Mergel may well have to repeat his two victories to place in the top four at regionals and qualify for state for the first time.

Whatcom County had two other champions. In divisions with only two entrants, Nooksack Valley freshman Uriel Lopez pinned Sultan’s Nathan Ostrye at 1:25 for 113-pound honors, and Baker sophomore Jesus Torrero decisioned Nooksack Valley sophomore Valentin Villalobos 4-0 for the 120-pound title.

Other Whatcom County runners-up included four Nooksack wrestlers — sophomore Michael O’Bryan (138), senior Taylor Gardner (152), junior Jared Parson (160) and senior Alvaro Jose (182).

Also taking second places were JT Keeney (195) and Baker freshman teammate Ethan Valum (220) along with Meridian freshman Jake Cheney (106).

Third places went to freshman Brenan Blankers (106), sophomore Chris Foresee (126) and junior Alex McLaurin (145), all from Nooksack, along with Meridian junior Jackson Day (182).

Nabbing the final regional spots with fourth places were Meridian freshman Martin Pfannenstiel (106), Noosack sophomore Eric Avilia (182) and Baker sophomore Braxton Brannon (195).


at Mount Baker

Championships106: David Woo (Sultan) def. Jake Cheney (Meridian) 15-3; 113: Uriel Lopez (NV) p. Nathan Ostrye (Sul) 1:25; 120: Jesus Torrero (MB) dec. Valentin Villalobos 4-0; 126: James Mckenzie (Sultan) p. Wil Holbert (SW) 1:50; 132: Jamell Carroll (Sultan) p. Hunter Newman (SW) 2:52; 138: Gavyn Baird (Sultan) p. Michael O’Bryan (NV) 5:46; 145: Jeremiah Cronk (MB) dec. Cory Martinez (Sultan) 5-3; 152: Tanner Belcher (Sultan) p. Taylor Gardner (NV) 1:09; 160: Dylan Oster (Sultan) dec. Jared Parson (NV) 11-2; 170: Kaleb Dennis (Sultan) injury default over Charlie Johnson (Sultan); 182: Matt Baller (Sultan) p. Alvaro Jose (NV) 1:15; 195: Brandon Webb (Sultan) dec. JT Keeney (MB) 17-8; 220: Morgan Yates (Sultan) p. Ethan Valum (MB) 0:38; 285: Tyson Mergel (NV) p. Kole Hickey (MB) 1:24.

Other Whatcom County regional qualifiers: 106: Brenan Blankers (NV), third; Martin Pfannenstiel (Meridian), fourth; 126: Chris Foresee (NV), third; 145: Alex McLaurin (NV), third; 182: Jackson Day (Meridian), third; Eric Avilia (NV), fourth; 195: Braxton Shannon (MB), fourth.