High School Sports

New faces highlight regional tourney

An interesting trend emerged early in the championship round for Whatcom County girls’ wrestlers at the Northwest Regional Tournament on Saturday, Feb. 14, at Bellingham High School.

The first two Whatcom County regional champions — Mount Baker’s Korbyn Cadle (115 pounds) and Nooksack Valley’s Maria Cazares — were both alternates to the state tournament before. Neither had competed in the Mat Classic.

That changed for them Saturday when they both convincingly showed why they deserve a trip to the Tacoma Dome next Saturday.

Cazares opened up the championship rounds with a dominating win over Lynden’s Krystal Cruz.

Aside from a first-round escape from Cruz, Cazares was the only one putting points on the board, recording four takedowns and a near fall to give her a 13-1 win.

“I was really confident,” Cazares said. “I just went out and did what I had to do. I was waiting for this match.”

Cadle, too, was confident. She had earned a quick pin to take the sub-regional last week and repeated her same aggressive bull rush to get a pin. It only took her 1 minutes, 27 seconds to do so against Inglemoor’s Terra Strecker.

“I just went out there and wrestled and wrestled my match and it turned out really good,” Cadle said.

Both had already secured a spot at the Mat Classic earlier in the day with semifinal wins but the elation was still present after each of their title wins.

For Cazares, it was a return to form. She was an alternate to state in her freshman year two season ago before failing to qualify last season.

This year, she will go in as a contender and she couldn’t quite find the words to describe it but gave three of her best descriptions.

“I feel like I’m shocked but not really because I knew I could have done it but I’m really excited that im going,” Cazares said.

“What I did throughout the season was I worked my butt off in the wrestling room, I used what my coaches had taught me and I’m really happy.”

“It feels awesome, unbelievable. The best feeling ever.”

For Cadle, it was much more of a gradual incline to dominance. Like Cazares, Cadle qualified in her freshman season as an alternate. This year, it’s hard to think of a more dominant wrestler.

“She’s kind of like last year. Each week she got better and better, and come state she was ready to go,” Baker coach Clyde Blockley said. “This year she just kept getting better and better and better. Now she won the regionals.”

Cadle highlighted a Mountaineers’ squad that took home top team honors again, getting five girls into the championship round and winning all five.

In the 120-pound class, it was Natalie Smith cruising to a quick 46-second pin over the Nooksack Valley’s Emma Bruntil, the same two competitors in last week’s subregional 120-pound championship match.

“It took me a little longer last week so today I just wanted to be able to go out and get it done,” Smith said. “That’s what I was looking for.”

Smith placed eighth at state her freshman year, and seventh last season, so she’s once again hoping for another medal at the Mat Classic.

“It definitely helps,” Smith said of the experience she brings to state. “I think my first two years I could have done better. Maybe it was just the nerves of it all. So this year I’ve just been a little more relaxed so that should definitely help.”

Other Mountaineers’ champions included Rachel Nichols at the 145-pound class and Akemi Schwinden at 235. Schwinden avenged her second-round loss by pin to Sehome’s Lisa Hernandez at sub-regionals with a second-round pin this week.

Nooksack Valley finished second as a team, picking up three finalists, including wins from both Cazares and Lynette Samano (125). Kaleiolani Jefferson (190) lost to La Conner’s Frances Zeimantz.

Both Nooksack wins came against Lynden opponents. The Lions finished fourth as a team as they got three girls — Cruz, Karina Martinez (125) and Kali Spady (130) in the final round before losing all three.

Blaine’s Olivia Adams lost her championship match at the 135-pound weight class to Liberty’s Joanna Moreira.

Whatcom County qualified 23 wrestlers for the Mat Classic, which starts on Friday, Feb. 20, at the Tacoma Dome.