State Wrestling: Ashley’s Title Helps Pirates Put Their Mark on the Mat
Treasure Hunting: Adna and W.F. West Headline Five Area Teams on the Mat Classic Podium
By Jordan Nailon
TACOMA — Lucas Ashley is the latest Pirate to return to Lewis County with a haul of gold to show for his efforts at the Tacoma Dome. The Adna junior emerged unscathed from this year’s expanded 152 pound bracket in the 1B/2B classification of the 31st Mat classic with a pair of pins and a pair of points victories.
Ashley entered Saturday 1-0 with a bye to bolster his position and then won three straight matches to claim the second state championship in school history. He pinned Seth Baugher of Oroville in 3:55 in his first match of the day and then downed Thomas Perryman of Reardan 7-3 in the semifinals to reach the penultimate bout.
In the championship match Ashley squared off with Tony Nichols, a senior from Lake Roosevelt, and claimed a decisive 8-1 points victory. The match was back and forth in the early going before a takedown by Ashley left Nichols with a knee injury that he never recovered from.
“It’s great. It’s awesome!” Ashley said immediately after securing his place atop the podium. “I felt fine the entire match. I felt good… When he took his first injury timeout I kind of knew I had him there.”
Riding a wave of success nearly all weekend the Pirates were able to send two other wrestlers to championship bouts with Matthew Slape and Ashton Dowell following in procession after Ashley’s title romp.
Adna coach Craig Ferrier claims he prophesied that impressive feat while peering into the clouds of his morning coffee.
“I was having breakfast this morning with the other coaches and I told them that from 152 pounds we’re going to sit there and we’re going to sit there for three matches,” Ferrier said. “It’s just awesome. We’ve had those three kids who have won all of these tournaments and to be all in the finals back-to-back-to-back in here it’s just incredible. It’s indescribable.”
Ashton Dowell, an Adna senior and the returning 170-pound state champion, won his quarterfinal match with a 9-0 major decision before setting sail to the title round with a 5-4 win in the semifinals. Slape, a 160-pound senior, notched a pin in the quarterfinals before punching his ticket to the finals with a 5-2 decision.
After Slape clinched his semifinal win that made their trifecta of finals appearances official Dowell came sprinting over from across the quadrant of mats to mob his teammate in celebration.
“I tried to book it over here from my match for the last 13 seconds,” Dowell explained. “We knew we had three coming back that were high placers and we’ve just been like, this is the year, this is the year!”
Slape said that having a mat room full of talented and motivated teammates helps everyone in the program elevated their performance. The only drawback to having three top tier wrestlers in rapid succession is that it makes it difficult for them to focus while they have to prepare for the oftentimes overlapping matches at the fast-paced Mat Classic.
“It’s really cool to have multiple state placers last year and this year because you always have somebody to push you. You can never take a day off because it just doesn’t work like that,” said Slape. “It’s so hard to be warming up and try to get mentally ready at the same time because you don’t want that to affect you, but you want to support your teammates at the same time.”
Unfortunately, after Ashley claimed top prize at 152 pounds the smooth sailing ran out for the selfless Adna crew.
Dowell ran into Kaden Krouse of Chewelah and couldn’t figure out how to break down his foe. Krouse, a sophomore, won a state title at 170 pounds in the 1A classification as a freshman and spent the interim wrestling in club and national tournaments to hone his potential even further. In their championship match Krouse was able to best Dowell 8-3 in a points decision that grew wide later as Dowell took risks to play catch up.
Slape also had to settle for a silver medal. He trailed 9-3 in the final round before Wilbur-Creston senior Joe Peasley, another returning state champion, locked down a pin with less than a minute remaining.
Coach Ferrier was sympathetic to the heartbreak of his senior wrestlers under the bright lights of the dome but was adamant that neither Dowell nor Slape have any reason to hang their heads for long.
“It’s not really a fluke that they were returning state champions. They are the real deal,” Ferrier said of the wrestlers who topped Dowell and Slape. “Right now we are going to give them the chance to be upset but then it’s more about talking about perspective. Tomorrow you’re going to feel better. The next day you’ll feel even better and pretty soon you’ll look back at it and realize that Matthew is the first and only four-time state placer in Adna history. Regardless of this match Ashton is always the first state champion that Adna’s ever had.”
He said that sort of consistency should help to set a new expectation for success throughout the ranks of Adna wrestling from little tykes to the varsity. The six Adna boys who made it to the Mat Classic were able to combine to crack the top ten in total team points at the 1B/2B level.
“We all practice in the same room so these guys are out there practicing before the little kids start so they’re seeing them practice and to be able to put that kinds of stuff up on the wall so the kids know, hey, we’re cranking out guys in the finals and championships. Hopefully that’s something that will help the program grow,” explained Ferrier.
10 area wrestlers entered the day with championship hopes as they sat undefeated going into their quarterfinal matchups. Four of those hopefuls had their hopes dashed right out of the gate on Saturday and three more suffered disappointments in the semifinal round.
Mason Morones of W.F. West lost his 132-pound semifinal match 4-2 before rebounding with a 3-2 victory on the dark side of the bracket. Morones then persevered through three overtime periods to claim a third place finish with a 2-1 win over Aaron Fisher of Burlington-Edison.
W.F. West had another wrestler drop in the 195 pound semifinal when Isaac Reavis fell in the first round. Reavis then dropped a consolation match to the eventual third place finisher before securing a fifth place finish with a late pin against Jordan Claridge of Black Hills.
The 19 Bearcat boys who made the trek to the Tacoma Dome wound up placing sixth in team points in the 2A classification.
Jayden Lancaster of Rochester also found success in the 2A tournament. He rallied back to claim third place in th 145 pound bracket following a gut-wrenching loss in the quarterfinals. After taking an early lead in that first match on Saturday, and eventually extending it out to 10-0, Lancaster fell victim to a pin with short time on the clock. Lancaster didn’t take much time to wallow in his sorrow though as he notched an 8-4 victory and then a 15-0 technical fall to reach the third place match. In that trophy bout Lancaster went up 2-0 before falling behind 2-3 for a brief period of time. However, a pair of takedowns in the final minutes gave Lancaster a firm grip on the bronze medal.
“He grew up a lot in this tournament. I was nervous when he lost that (quarterfinal) match. It sucked. But he came back mentally tough and a lot of kids won’t. I’ve had many kids over the years who lose that one and then it’s bam-bam-bam. They’re done. But to have a kid battle back like that is just amazing. I’m so proud of him,” said Rochester coach Jason Dick.
Like Ferrier out on Highway 6, Dick is hopeful that seeing a wrestler in blue and yellow bringing home a medal will help keep things moving in the right direction out off of Old Highway 9. He pointed out the mass of Warriors wrestlers and fans who stuck around until the very end of an extra long day as evidence that Rochester wrestling is coming together.
“We’re a bunch of knuckleheads around here. As you look down there that’s all family. It’s not our team. We’ve said it from the get-go, this is our family. We’re changing the culture around here and turning into a wrestling school,” said Dick. “I’m a proud papa right now. These are all my knuckleheads right now and (Lancaster) is the biggest one.”
Ethan Buck was the only other area wrestler on the boys side to find his way to the podium on Saturday night. The 160-pound Toledo grappler started his day in the consolation bracket and managed to survive the game to a sixth place finish. Buck notched victories of 17-2, 6-3, and 12-4 before getting pinned in the match to reach the third place round. Buck lost 5-0 in his final match to settle for sixth place in the 1B/2B ranks.
In girls action Xylia Warner of W.F. West was a victim of a pin in her semifinal match. Following another pin in her consolation round Warner was able to gather herself for a 4-3 victory in triple overtime to collect a fifth place finish.
Cheyann Meyer of Adna lost her 125-pound quarterfinal affair 4-3 when time ran out on an otherwise inevitable comeback. Meyer bounced back with a pin in 1:24 of her first consolation match and an 11-4 victory in her second battle on the bottom of the bracket. Meyer then suffered a pin before falling 4-1 in her final contest to finish in sixth place. It’s her third consecutive year placing at state.
With snow canceling the regional tournaments last week and brackets for the state tournament were expanded from 16 to 32 slots. With those extra entries numerous ara wrestlers notched wins and points for their teams on Saturday but still failed to find their way into the prestigious podium photo lineup.
W.F. West led the way in the noble also-ran department. Bo Davis notched a pin in his first 120 pound consolation match of the day but then fell 10-5 to end his season. Chase Conaway (285) won by pin to start his day but then fell 6-3 in his next match, while Chris Powe (182) also had a pin for breakfast before taking his medicine with a points decision loss.
Centralia’s Juan Gaspar started Saturday with a tooth and nail 8-7 overtime victory over Darren Gray of W.F. West in 113 pound action. Gaspar’s day came to an unceremonious end shortly thereafter with a 3-1 defeat. Similarly, Riley Cohron (132) of Rochester emerged with a 5-4 victory in his first match of the day before his tournament came to a close with a 6-3 loss.
In the 1B/2B ranks Toledo continued to be active, if frustrated, on the mat. Jesse Weeks won 4-0 in 152 pound action to start the day before collecting a 15-2 major decision for good measure. However, his season came to a close with a 4-0 loss in a match to reach the podium.
In the 220 pound bracket Michael Echtle earned a major decision victory by a score of 9-0 before dropping his final match 7-3.
Grant Bennett (195) of Napavine was able to pin Hunter Smith of Toledo in their morning match but Bennett fell victim to a pin later on in the day to end his season.
In the girls bracket Jamiah Christin earned a major decision by a score of 12-1 in her first 115 pound contest but was later pinned in an elimination match.