Wolves send 11 to regionals

As the seconds ticked to three, two, one and zero, Joe Hutchison looked at the final score and pumped his fist in the air.

“You wrestled a smart match,” his coach Len Borchers said, matching his 135-pound champion’s grin.

“Scary, though,” Hutchison replied.

Despite a fourth-place finish among five teams at the Olympic League sub-district tournament in Port Townsend Feb. 2, Sequim’s Wolves are taking 11 grapplers to the West Central District Region II Tournament in Tacoma on Feb. 9, including three No. 1 seeds and a pair of No. 2 seeds. There, the hopes of advancing to the class 2A state tournament either come true or fall just short.

After losing a number of bodies throughout the season thanks to various ailments, the Wolves seemed to have their full arsenal Saturday. Keller Batson-Hickok, who suffered through shoulder and knee problems, won the 215-pound weight class with a bandaged knee, topping Robert Vandaling of North Mason 14-7 in the finals.

Ethan Hinton, who missed the final match of the season with a sickness, topped the field at 189 pounds.

But it was Hutchison who perhaps wore the biggest smile last weekend. The junior with Sequim’s most victories in 2007-08 pinned Kingston’s Alex Matthews and outpointed Nehemiah Salo of Klahowya 10-4, setting up a championship bout with Klahowya’s Neil Sell, a longtime rival.

Two weeks ago, Sell pinned Hutchison. On Saturday, Hutchison got his revenge, earning a 5-2 lead by the third period and, rather than going for a pin in his usual aggressive style, held back, containing the strong sophomore from Klahowya. Sell broke free with a second left but Hutchison got the 5-3 win and top seed to regionals.

Anthony Drabek shrugged off truly limited practice time thanks to a lingering shoulder injury to grab second place at 140 pounds losing only an 8-4 decision to Joe Sawyers of Klahowya. Drabek held a 4-2 lead in the match but a recent sick bug caught up with him; Drabek missed the awards ceremony later because he was retching outside following his match.

Sequim heavyweight Thomas Gallagher earned a No. 2 seed as well, falling only by a pin to Jared Rinehardt of the subdistrict champion North Mason Bulldogs.

Perhaps the surprise of Sequim’s tournament came at 130 pounds, where Travis Tamblyn picked up three wins and placed third overall. After losing to Jon Hays of Klahowya in the opening round, Tamblyn reeled off three straight wins, topping Hays in the third/fourth place match.

Taylor Gowdy (125 pounds) and Alex O’Donnell (152) each earned third-place finishes to regionals while teammates Alex Lamb (125 pounds), Paden Sutterby (140) and Mike Bereiter (160) were each fourth.

We got a couple of good surprises,” Sequim coach Len Borchers said. “Given the amount of injuries and illnesses we’ve had, we did all right.”

The regional tournament pits top wrestlers from the Olympic League with grapplers from Nisqually League teams Eatonville, Foster, Steilacoom, Washington and sub-regional champ Fife.

The top three from next Saturday’s regional tourney move on to MatClassic Feb. 15-16 in the Tacoma Dome. MatClassic brings the top 16 wrestlers in each weight class in each of Washington state’s six school divisions under one roof, a two-day prep wrestling circus.

Borchers expects some of his grapplers to be there.

“The guys who placed in the top three have a real good chance of moving on,” Borchers said. “Six (advancing to state) would be great, eight would be wonderful.”

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