Three Wolves — two first-timers and a three-time medal winner — are set to take on the biggest tournament of the year in the Tacoma Dome this weekend.
All seniors, Kiara Pierson, 28-2 on the season at 135 pounds, looks for another shot at a championship at the state MatClassic on Feb. 16-17 after placing third last year, fourth her sophomore year, and eighth as a freshman.
She’s joined by Jamie Schroepfer, 21-11 at 132 pounds, and Ben Newell, 22-10 at 145 pounds, who reached regionals in three of four years.
Sequim coach Bill Schroepfer said Pierson is excited to return to state.
“She’s in a good position to get to the finals, but it’s tough and the top 16 in the state,” he said.
“Our attitude going into it is that every match is a tough match and you’re preparing for battle right out of the gate.”
For his newcomers, Schroepfer said they have to mentally prepare for wrestling in the Tacoma Dome and get over the shock factor.
“It’s the same six minute match, same size mat. It feels the same. They score it just the same. When you focus it down, it’s really just another match,” he said.
To make it state, the trio had to make the top four at regionals with the boys at North Mason High School on Feb. 10, and the girls at Decatur High School on Feb. 9 and 10.
It took an overtime finals win to take the No. 1 seed into state, but Pierson continued her strong streak at regionals.
She faced Kentwood’s Ivy Kraght for the top spot, which came down to a 1-1 tie through three rounds. One of Pierson’s two losses on the season was to Kraght.
Schroepfer said he was able to watch via video message and Pierson won with a double-leg takedown for the 3-1 win.
“It was just a good, hard fought match,” Schroepfer said.
Leading up to the finals, Pierson won by 7-2 decision over Jemma Souza of Rogers Puyallup followed by a 47 second pin of Selena Garza of Curtis.
Pierson had faced these girls before last winning in triple overtime 5-4 over Souza in a January tournament.
Pierson said her goal this year was to return to state and not over-think certain scenarios.
She was recently accepted into The United States Military Academy, or West Point, and said when she first wrestled Kraght she had a lot on her mind. Now that she’s been accepted, her focus is on state, she said.
Assistant coach Jake Reichner said he hopes this is her year for a championship.
“There are a couple of challenges for her but it’s not out of reach,” he said.
At regionals, Pierson was joined by Madison Uranga, 8-12 at 190 pounds, a three-time regional-qualifier, Aleah Chen, 15-12 at 155 pounds, and alternate Megan Puksta, 12-10 at 130 pounds.
Both Chen and Uranga went 0-2.
Reichner said all of the girls had been wrestling better as of late including Chen, a freshman.
“She wasn’t just using one move over and over that worked in middle school,” he said. “She’s being more aggressive and putting it all on the line.”
Pierson opens the state tournament at 11:52 a.m. Friday against Rebekah Hollins of Mount Baker.
Schroepfer and Newell both took second place at regionals to earn their spots at state with Schroepfer facing a foe from the previous week.
After pinning Cole Helgeson of Sedro-Woolley in 1:02 to open regionals, Schroepfer faced Bremerton’s Luis Clemen.
At sub-regionals, Clemen pinned Schroepfer in 1:15 but this time, Schroepfer pinned Clemen in 5:24.
Following the personal victory, Schroepfer was pinned in the finals by Burlington-Edison’s Aaron Fisher in 1:34.
Newell also opened regionals with a pin in 5:32 over Burlington-Edison’s Zach Gallager.
He followed it with a 9-7 overtime victory over sub-regional weight class champion Glenn Moe.
Newell faced Bremerton’s Ryan Saylor for consecutive weeks after losing 5-1 in sub-regionals and 4-0 in the regionals finals.
After the Sequim seniors learned they’d both be going to state, Bill Schroepfer said they hugged and shared tears of joy.
The Sequim coach pulled the team together after their wins, he said.
“It was a great learning lesson for the freshmen,” Bill Schroepfer said.
“These two had to work four full years to earn their way to state. It’s not a given. It’s hard work for four years to get them to this point.”
At regionals, the friends were joined by two-time regional qualifier Chris Puksta, 17-10, who took sixth place at 152 pounds. He went 1-3 in the tournament with a 6-2 win over Bellingham’s Brahm VanWoerden.
Bill Schroepfer said when Puksta looks back at the tournament, “he’ll know that he gave more than 100 percent.”
Other competitors included freshmen Garrett Harris, 138 pounds, Logan Laxson, 170 pounds, and Noah Eveland, 280 pounds, who all had to wrestle pigtail matches into regionals as fourth place finishers at sub-regionals.
Eveland pinned his opponent while Laxson automatically qualified. Harris did not qualify.
Both Eveland and Laxson went 0-2.
At state, Schroepfer opens the tournament against Bryson Anderson of Orting at 11:12 a.m. Friday and Newell against Dayton Crawford of Washington at 11:44 a.m.
Reach Matthew Nash at firstname.lastname@example.org.