By Mike Maltais
The Liberty Bell High School varsity wrestling team made good use of the Christmas-New Year holiday break with solid performances at the Royal Christmas Tournament Dec. 28 and the Jeremiah Schmunk Invitational at Warden on Saturday.
The Mountain Lions faced a formidable lineup of big teams from 14 other schools at Royal.
“All but one were larger than Liberty Bell,” said coach Paul Schmekel. “And most with one or more wrestlers for every weight bracket.”
If the Mountains Lions noticed the disadvantage they didn’t show it.
Jacob McMillan, Meritt Fink, Emmett Fink and Milo Holston led the Liberty Bell attack at Royal with second-place finishes.
McMillan pinned Reardon’s Nate Kieffer in less than a minute, won a close 8-7 decision over Jonathan Crise of Chewelah, and pinned Crise’s teammate Loren Stoker in 1:43 to advance to the finals. Cashmere’s Ethan Visser stopped McMillan’s run with a 6-0 decision for the 138-pound title.
Meritt Fink pinned Abel Dominguez of Royal and Daniel Wedgewood of Goldendale in 32 and 35 seconds respectively before scoring an 8-2 decision over Reardan’s Michael Sims to reach the 145-pound finals. Fink lost to Warden’s Emilio Pruneda by a pin in 3:27 for second place.
Emmett Fink’s three pins, Avery Walker of Goldendale in 1:44, Tonasket’s Caleb Lofthus in 56 seconds, and Chelan’s Juan Garcia in 3:54, advanced him into the 152-pound final round against Robert Orozco of Connell. Orozco won a 10-7 decision.
After a first-round bye, Holston pinned his next two 160-pound opponents, Bryce Wilkins of Goldendale and Connell’s Rudy Gonzales. A narrow 3-1 loss in overtime to Jacob James of Cashmere left Holston with second place.
Tyson Coleman, Danny Rodriguez, Ivan Johnson and Stoney Hulon all finished out of the medal round but scored some wins along the way.
Coleman won a 9-7 decision over Rueben Finn of Goldendale in the 170-pound bracket. Johnson, at 152 pounds, pinned Dean Enstad of Goldendale and Chad Glover of Chewelah.
Holston and McMillan both collared first-place medals in their respective 160-pound and 138-pound divisions at the Jeremiah Schmunk Invitational at Warden on Saturday.
The Mountain Lions were among 10 schools to compete at the annual event and with the help of second-place finishes from Emmett and Meritt Fink led Liberty Bell to a fifth-place team finish.
Holston earned the 160-pound title following three fall victories over Jake woods of Columbia Burbank in 49 seconds, Rudy Gonzales of Connell in 1:37 and Kevin Knauff of Garfield-Palouse in 2:18.
McMillan defeated two Columbia Burbank opponents, Conner Rexin by a fall in 3:29 and Lui Carrasco in a 16-6 decision, to advance to the finals against Warden’s Raul Martinez. McMillan won a close 4-3 decision over the Cougar for first place.
Following a first-round bye at 152 pounds, Emmett Fink met Lake Roosevelt’s Kodie Horn and got the best of the Raider in a 5-2 decision.
Fink advanced to the championship round to once again face Robert Orozco from Connell, his finals opponent at Royal. Orozco gutted out a 4-3 decision to leave Fink with second place.
In the 145-pound bracket, Meritt Fink defeated Chase Gleason of Kittitas by a fall in just under one minute to advance against Tonasket’s Zach Lofthus. After decisively beating the Tiger, 8-1, Fink also had a rematch against Connell’s Emilio Pruneda, his finals opponent from the previous week at Royal. Pruneda won the encounter by a narrow 8-7 decision for first place.
Tyson Coleman started out his eventual third-place performance at 170 pounds with a win over JT Garland of Columbia Burbank. Coleman then lost by a fall to Mt. Baker’s Travis Lindsey but rebounded with two wins over Clay Phillips and Matt Reardon, both Columbia Burbank wrestlers.
Kaleb Marten at 132 pounds pinned Tyson Rogers of Colfax in 1:52 but lost his next by a fall to Warden’s Ernie Mendez. Marten recovered to defeat Tommy Ott of Kittitas for fifth place.
Danny Humiston finished out of the medal ranks at 126 pounds with losses to Warden’s Tyson Yamane by a 4-3 decision and James Monaghan of Lake Roosevelt by a 7-4 margin.
Coach Schmekel hopes to have nine wrestlers on the roster when the Mountain Lions travel to Olympia to compete in the Gut Creek Challenge on Saturday (Jan. 11).
“It’s their inaugural meet and we are the only B school to be invited,” Schmekel said adding that the other teams will range from 1A to 4A in size.
“All of our scheduled matches this year are against tough opponents,” said Schmekel. “Next to the Tri-State I think this will be our most challenging meet.”
Royal Christmas results
1 Castle rock 180
3 Warden 145
5 Connell 127
6 Royal 120
7 Chewelah 119
8 Chelan 114.5
9 Cashmere 109.5
10 Liberty Bell 91
11 Goldendale 89
12 Othello 85
13 Reardon 69
14 Wahluke 40
15 Riverside 22
Warden tourney results
1 Warden 177.5
2 Tonasket 141.5
3 Mt. Baker 140
5 Liberty Bell 109
6 Connell 104
7 Colfax 76
8 Lake Roosevelt 68
9 Columbia Burbank 34
10 Garfield-Palouse 32