For all the hours on the mat, relentlessly practicing move after move, the day-long tournaments, the three-dozen matches during the season and the gauntlet of win-or-go-home postseason action: This is the payoff.
Eight Sequim wrestlers - six senior boys and junior Thomas Gallagher plus senior Sarah Keltonic - are headed to the pinnacle of Washington state prep wrestling, the MatClassic tournament in Tacoma after earning top-three finishes at regional tournaments in Tacoma and Fife on Saturday.
Sequim's boys put nearly half of their 15-man regional tourney roster into state after a third-place team finish at Washington High School on Feb. 14.
Ethan Hinton went 3-0 and took home the 189-pound title and No. 1 seed to the state tourney while Taylor Gowdy (125 pounds), Nick Grinnell (130) and Alex O'Donnell (152) each went 2-1, their lone losses coming in the regional championship matches.
Gallagher, Sequim's heavyweight, rebounded from a semifinal loss to go 3-1 and finish third. Also taking the region's third and final berth to state were Joe Hutchison (135 pounds) and Anthony Drabek (140).
Sequim senior David Copeland finished fourth at 171 pounds and will be an alternate to state.
"It was tough; there were a couple of teams that were a little stronger (than we expected)," Sequim coach Len Borchers said.
Hinton capped his 3-0 tourney with a hard-fought, 12-8 win against Washington's James Watkins. Hinton finished eighth at the state tourney last season.
"Ethan was solid. As usual, (he was) very right on," Borchers said.
Gowdy, making his third trip to MatClassic in as many seasons, won two matches before dropping an 8-3 decision to Jesus Gonzales of Fife in the 125-pound title bout.
Grinnell posted wins against Padden Grey of Eatonville and Chris Gray of Steilacoom before falling to Jared Henden of North Mason 12-2 in the 130-pound final. Grinnell, who beat Henden 2-1 in the sub-district tourney a week prior, wrestled at state in 2007 as a 112-pound sophomore.
O'Donnell earned his first berth to the state tourney (he was an alternate as a freshman in 2006) when he battled into the 152-pound weight class finale. Washington's Rene Alvarez pinned O'Donnell for the No. 1 berth; O'Donnell gets the No. 2 seed to state.
"Alex was full of brilliant moments," Borchers said. "He's really excited right now. This group (of seniors) has been together for a lot of years."
Hutchison, who finished sixth at the state tourney at 135 pounds last year, suffered a first-round loss at regionals to Tanner Rogers of Fife.
"I was surprised (but) the good news was he came right back," Borchers said. "We had to get him calmed down - he was upset."
Facing elimination, Hutchison responded with two consolation bracket wins and earned a return to state with a 4-1 win against Rogers.
Anthony Drabek, another senior, earned his first trip to state since 2007 (he was an alternate last season) with a 3-1 mark, capping it with a 6-2 win against Jacob Marks of Interlake in the 140-pound consolation finals.
Gallagher dropped a second- round match to Eatonville's Bryce Wells before posting a win and eventually facing John North of North Mason in the consolation finals. Gallagher pinned North in 50 seconds.
Keltonic, wrestling at a separate girls-only regional at Fife High School, made it to the finals in the 140-pound weight bracket to earn second place, and Sequim's second girls' state berth since 2007, when MatClassic officials devised a girl's tournament. (In 2007, Sequim's Summer Steenberg made it all the way to the 135-pound finals before falling in the championship match, 5-2, to Hoquiam's Alex White).
Sequim took third in team points with 152, well behind frontrunners North Mason (203 points) and Fife (192.5).
"North Mason, they're real deep; their lineup is exceptional, especially at the lightweights," Borchers said.
Sequim wrestlers now face the best of the best at MatClassic. Borchers said he has one primary goal for his athletes; earn at least one win at state.
"Winning a match there is a major accomplishment," Borchers said. "We tell them, 'Do your best on the mat.'"
What: Washington state wrestling championships (all classifications, boys and girls)
When: Feb. 20-21
Where: Tacoma Dome, Tacoma
Tickets: One day - $14 for adults, $10 for seniors and students with ID; Two days - $22 for adults, $16 for seniors and students with ID
Web site: www.wiaa.com/
Reach Michael Dashiell at firstname.lastname@example.org.