Wrestling: Nine Pirates Poised to Make Noise at Mat Classic XXX

JARED WENZELBURGER / jwenzelburger@chronline.com
Adna’s state-bound wrestlers, from left, Matthew Slape, Ashton Dowell, Hunter Fields, Luke Wellander, Cheyeann Meyer, Braxton Dowell, Aaron Slape, Kameron Perry and Lucas Ashley pose for a photo in the Pirate wrestling room on Wednesday.

Seeds of Success: Adna Wrestlers Get After it Early and Often

By Jordan Nailon

jnailon@chronline.com

Over the last few year the Adna wrestling program has not only managed to put its name on the map, the Pirates seem to have stolen the map altogether and drawn a big fat “X” over the Tacoma Dome. After all, with nine wrestlers headed to the Mat Classic XXX state championships beginning Friday, it’s obvious the Pirates know where the booty is, and precisely what it takes to get there.

That contingent of state title contenders includes eight boys and one girl. Six of those wrestlers punched their tickets to the Tacoma Dome as regional champions, and two of the other state-bound Pirates suffered just one loss in the tournament when they faced off against their own teammates in the semifinal round.

Last year Adna took nine wrestlers to state and wound up finishing sixth as a team, despite a rough go in the trophy rounds. It was the first time in school history that the Pirates placed in the top 10.

This year the Pirates are gunning to bring home trophies for themselves and their school.

The Pirates’ regional champs include Ashton Dowell (170 pounds, junior), Aaron Slape (138, senior), Kameron Perry (182, senior), Matthew Slape (160, junior), Lucas Ashley (145, sophomore), and Cheyeann Meyer (125, junior). Hunter Fields (182, junior) and Luke Wellander (145, senior) qualified for state with third-place regional finishes, after losing to fellow Pirates in the semis, and Braxton Dowell (152, senior) took second. 

JARED WENZELBURGER / jwenzelburger@chronline.com
Adna’s state-bound seniors, from left, Luke Wellander, Braxton Dowell, Aaron Slape and Kameron Perry pose for a photo in the Pirate wrestling room on Wednesday.

”I really feel like all nine of them have an opportunity to place. I would not be surprised if I had at least three boys make the finals and Cheyeann could make the finals for the girls,” said Craig Ferrier, who is in his sixth year as coach of the Adna wrestling team.

Ferrier noted that the Dowell brothers, Matthew Slape and Meyer likely have the best chances to bring home gold, but added, “They all have the skills to do it.”

Ashton Dowell and Matthew Slape, both juniors, are currently ranked No. 1 in their weight and classification and Dowell defeated the defending state champion last weekend in what Ferrier called, “probably one of the best matches I’ve ever seen.”

Braxton Dowell, a senior, has also held a No. 1 ranking this season. Last year both Matthew Slape and Braxton Dowell placed second at state.

Last weekend Meyer pinned her way through her bracket, with her longest match lasting just 40 seconds. However, Ferrier noted that a tough draw at state placed the three-time defending state champion — Davis’ Cameron Guerin — on Meyer’s side of the bracket, with the potential for the two to meet in the semifinals.

“It’s going to be a tough road,” he said. “But when you get to that level, they’re all tough,”

Last weekend’s team regional title came just a week after the Pirates plundered their way to a District 4 title. Each accomplishment, a testament to the commitment to the team concept, was a first in school history.

He credits the success of his wrestlers to their commitment and the continuity between the community’s youth, middle school and high school programs.

“They’ve all wrestled youth wrestling with the Adna program and through middle school with Adna and now at the high school level,” said Ferrier. “For the last three years now it’s been the same coaching staff that coaches the high school coaching the middle school, so they‘re definitely seeing a continuation.”
Ferrier lauded assistant coach Matt Patana with praise for his uncommon knack for, and commitment to, building relationships with wrestlers, as well as his love for the sport. He also credited Dave Layden with helping to change the direction of the program when he joined the coaching staff four years ago and began focusing on strength and conditioning.

Ferrier says that over the years the school’s wrestlers have put in more and more time on the mat and in the weight room during the offseason, and the results have been hard to argue with.

“It’s definitely raised expectations. Whether you’re a freshman who hasn’t wrestled before or one of our senior captains, that expectation is there that you are going to work hard,” said Ferrier. “That comes all the way down from our captains They handle a lot of stuff in-house.”

This year the Adna wrestling team consisted of 15 boys and two girls. Ferrier said he sees plenty of promising young grapplers in the pipeline already to help grow the ranks and he’s hoping that Meyer’s success will lead more girls to don the blue and yellow singlet.

Ferrier says that it can be difficult to manage a team with only two girls. He explained that finding opponents on local teams can be a challenge and noted that his female wrestlers and male wrestlers often have to face off at practice out of necessity.

“We want the girls side to grow. It just makes it easier for everyone,” said Ferrier, who hopes to one day have as many as 10 female wrestlers.

For now, as they starch their singlets and pack their head gear in preparation for the voyage to Mat Classic XXX, Ferrier is plenty pleased with the group of successful scalawags he’s already got.

“They’re like brothers. They get on each others nerves every once and again but they’ll basically spend 14 hours at a tournament and then there’s about eight of them that will go out to Dairy Queen and then all of them will go stay at Luke Wellander’s house,” noted Ferrier. “That’s just what they do. That invitation is open to the entire team. … Of course there’s  bunch of them that are really really close but they extend the invitation to the whole team.”

With the bulk of this season’s adventures behind them now, Ferrier sounds equally prepared to wave the Jolly Roger in victory of go down with the ship, head held high in the face of defeat.

“It’s just a privilege to coach these kids,” said Ferrier. “They have great parents. They’re there week in and week out and they’re just fantastic kids.”

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