The wolf pack may have been small, but it had some bite.
Three of Sequim High's four state tournament wrestlers grappled their way to the medal stands last weekend at the MatClassic wrestling tourney in Tacoma last weekend, sending one senior off in style and further fueling greater dreams for 2009 for three Sequim juniors.
Sequim High senior Keller Batson-Hickok (215-pound weight class) and Joe Hutchison (135 pounds) both placed sixth overall while Ethan Hinton (189 pounds) placed eighth as the Wolves scored 18 team points, 35th among 55 competing 2A teams.
"I was not expecting three (on the medal stand)," Sequim coach Len Borchers said. "I was thinking less than two would have been disappointing but three is great, especially with two (wrestlers) coming back next year."
Batson-Hickok, a MatClassic rookie, shrugged off two injuries this season and powered through districts for a No. 1 seed at state and carried that momentum into the first round, topping Prosser's Seth Warren in the 215-pound weight class opening 11-3.
But with a match against No. 1-ranked Dan Escamilla of Selah looming in the semifinals, Batson-Hickok instead got tripped up by Hoquiam senior William Law in the quarterfinals, by an 11-10 count.
Batson-Hickok rebounded by stopping Tori Murphy of Foster (7-3) and Zeke Evers of Archbishop Murphy (10-7) before getting pinned in the consolation semifinals by Elma's Justin Whitney.
The Sequim grappler wound up facing - and falling, once again - to Law of Hoquiam 13-5 to cap the tourney, but still wound up with the sixth-place trophy. With his grandparents from California in the stands, Batson-Hickok got to wrestle six times in two days.
"That was really the highlight for me," Borchers said, "for a couple of reasons. First, the injuries. Second, he hadn't really been tested all year except at tournaments. He came into (MatClassic) with a No. 6 ranking and he lived up to that."
Hutchison, a strong, energetic wrestler with such a frenetic style that sometimes leads to a pin-or-be-pinned pace, was a state competitor last season but got ousted in two matches. The _Sequim junior said it helped to have MatClassic experience heading into this year's tourney.
This year, he wrote a different story. Hutchison wrestled carefully early and it paid off, getting a 5-4 win in the opening round against Lynden's Matt Kelley and a hard-fought 8-7 win against Kenny Garza of Wapato - the No.4-ranked wrestler in the state - to earn a berth into the 135-pounders' semifinal match.
There he faced Bellingham's Taylor Perry, the state's No. 2-ranked wrestler, who subsequently pinned Hutchison in 2:49 on his way to the 2008 state title.
"He was really fast on his feet," Hutchison said.
Hutchison then fell to Quincy senior Dan Somers 9-4 in the consolation bracket to finish sixth.
Falling to Perry in the 135-pound class final was Neil Sell of Klahowya, a wrestler Hutchison beat on Feb. 2.
The Sequim junior said he thinks he's got as good a shot as anyone to do well at next year's MatClassic - except, perhaps, against wrestlers like Perry.
"Some guys are just way too good," Hutchison said.
Hinton was matched up with a tough first-round opponent in Niels Brisbane; the Lynden junior was ranked as high as third by some state wrestling Web sites but was only the Northwest District's No. 4 seed. Brisbane proved a tough match-up, getting a throw and early near pin that put Hinton in too big of a hole to recover from. Brisbane took the match 12-4.
Hinton, wrestling in his first MatClassic state championship, recovered quickly. He downed Morgan Fowler of Colville 8-5 and Burlington-Edison's Barry Wise 8-7 to avoid elimination and earn a spot on the medal stand. Despite losses to Darrell Price of Blaine (7-4) and a second loss to Brisbane (7-3), Hinton finished eighth.
"With high work ethic and his commitment, he'll be a target next year," Borchers said. "I'd like him to be more aggressive on the mat. He's got the tools and the strength to (be dominant) now he has experience. It helped for him to see some of those big guys out there."
Sequim junior Taylor Gowdy, making his second consecutive MatClassic appearance, had a rough first day. He dropped an 11-0 decision to Archbishop Murphy freshman Cameron Wade, and then was eliminated from the tourney by Riverside (Chattaroy) sophomore Justin Hodge in the consolation bracket, 4-0.
Gowdy came into the tourney with the district's third and final seed.
Borchers said Gowdy could use a little retooling and adapting a new arsenal of moves to get some MatClassic wins next year as a senior.
"Good kid, great attitude, works hard," Borchers said of Gowdy, noting the 125-pounder doubled his takedown total from a season ago. "He came a long ways this year."
Deer Park blew away the field in the 2A ranks, scoring 167.5 points to runner-up Blaine's 88 points ... Port Angeles finished tied for 40th among the 65 3A teams, with Roughrider wrestlers Chad Meldrum (140 pounds) and John Camp (285) picking up one win each ... Olympic High School ranked the best among Olympic League schools, taking 11th place among 3A schools. Klahowya was the top league school in the 2A ranks, finishing 18th ... Olympic League wrestlers finished 43-77 in their MatClassic matches combined ... Lake Stevens won the 4A title while Enumclaw (3A), Lakeside-Nine Mile Falls (1A), Republic (1B/2B) and Mount Baker (girls) also picked up team titles.