In the end, only one person — and three points – stood between Kiara Pierson and an elusive state title.
The Sequim High senior racked up three convincing pins on her way to the championship match of the girls’ 135-pound weight class at the MatClassic state tournament in Tacoma last weekend, where top-ranked Allison Blaine of Hudson’s Bay edged Pierson 4-2.
Teammate Ben Newell won one match at MatClassic while Jamie Schroepfer was 0-2 at the prep finals.
The runner-up finished a stellar career for Pierson, who placed third at last year’s MatClassic at 120 pounds as a junior, fourth at 110 pounds as a sophomore and eighth at 115 pounds as a freshman.
“Each year my goal I set for myself is to improve,” Pierson said. “Going into it everybody was rooting for me — ‘State champ, state champ’ — (but) I’m just proud that I accomplished my goal of doing better than I did last year.”
Pierson started the tourney Feb. 16 with a pin of Mt. Baker’s Rebekah Rollins in just 31 seconds. In the quarterfinals, Pierson pinned Wenatchee’s Emily Carroll in 3:10.
That set up a semi-final match with Jemma Souza of Rogers-Puyallup, who was ranked No. 7 in the weight class by washingtonwrestlingreport.net. Pierson, ranked No. 3 in the same division, faced Souza twice before during the regular season by points. This time around, Pierson earned her third pin of the tourney by pinning Souza 10 seconds into the second period.
In the other semi-final, Blaine edged Ivy Kraght of Kentwood, 5-3.
Pierson said she hadn’t seen Blaine wrestle all season until MatClassic. She said she had a chance to wrestle the top-ranked grappler from Hudson’s Bay at a tournament in Kelso, but missed the tourney for an interview that helped her get nominated to attend the United States Military Academy at West Point.
Pierson is the third Sequim High girl to place second in the 12-year history of girls-only divisions at MatClassic. Summer Steenberg placed second at 135 pounds in 2007, MatClassic’s first girls tourney, and Alma Mendoza was runner-up at 155 pounds last season.
Pierson finished her season with a 31-3 record.
Pierson made ajump in weight class this year. She said she didn’t want to worry about trying to cut weight and that she felt comfortable wrestling at 135 and 140 pounds.
“Throughout the season, I’ve been doing well at this weight class,” she said.
“I’ve seen my progession from the beginning to the end; technically, I’ve gotten better,” she said.
Newell, wrestling at 145 pounds, won his MatClassic opener by topping Dayton Crawford of Washington by injury default. Top-ranked Jake Freeman of Clarkston pinned Newell in 3:39 in the quarterfinals, and No. 6-ranked Isaiah Ervin of East Valley-Spokane knocked out the Sequim senior with an 8-3 decision, one spot from the medal stand (top eight finish).
Newell finished his season with a 23-12 record.
Fellow Sequim High senior Jamie Schroepfer, who finished his season with a 21-13 record, was pinned by No. 7-ranked Bryson Anderson of Orting in 36 seconds in his 132-pound weight class opener, and then pinned by Jason Powell of Washougal in the consolation bracket in 2:13.
“State was an awesome experience this year,” Pierson said, “to wrestle alongside the three senior captains.”
Pierson has earned a place at West Point next fall, where she said she is 99 percent sure she’ll attend.
The school does not have a women’s wrestling program, she said, but noted it does have a judo program. If she joins that team, she’d be back alongside brother Grant, a fellow Sequim wrestler who started at West Point last fall.
“I never really considered (the academy) before,” Pierson said, until her older brother got interested. Now, she seems locked in to joining her sibling at the New York military school
“They have amazing opportunities … for athletics and academics,” she said.