By Mike Maltais

Brothers Meritt and Emmett Fink won respective fourth- and fifth-place medals to lead the Liberty Bell High School varsity wrestling team to an impressive 14th-place team finish at the first annual Gut Check Challenge at Olympia last Saturday.

“It was a tournament put together to combine all the different size schools to be able to compete in one venue,” said coach Paul Schmekel. He noted that his team got to compete against some of the best wrestlers in the state and held their own against them.

With the exception of the 2B Mountain Lions, the remaining 25 teams that competed at the Gut Check were all 1A or larger in size and brought team rosters sufficient to compete in all or most of the 14 weight classes ranging from 106 to 285 pounds.

Liberty Bell’s small seven-man lineup by comparison had to concentrate on quality over quantity, and once again proved to be giant killers on the mat. It was up to Danny Rodriguez, 106 pounds, Danny Humiston, 126, Jacob McMillan, 138, Meritt Fink, 145, Emmett Fink, 152, Milo Holston, 160, and Tyson Coleman, 170, to make up with skill what their opponents had in numbers.

“We have some injuries and sickness going through the team,” Schmekel said but added, “I thought it was our best tournament of the year. It was also one of the hardest, even for the bigger schools that were there.”

Meritt Fink defeated Tumwater’s Austin Faraone with a first-period pin and did the same to British Columbia All-Star Eric Bauer in his next match. Fink then lost by decision to an East Valley (Spokane) opponent and by a fall to an Orting wrestler to take fourth place.

Emmett Fink won a 5-1 decision over Union’s Cameron Wood and was pinned in his next match by Rico Ybarra of Orting. Fink came back to pin Peninsula’s William Lester and get past Michael Lafrenier of North Thurston, 4-3, to tie for fifth place.

Rodriguez lost to opponents from Edmonds-Woodway and Olympia and was eliminated.

Humiston was pinned by a Kingston opponent in his first match but recovered to pin Peninsula’s Daryan Henshew. Humiston was pinned in his next round and was done for the tournament.

McMillan pinned Trace Fischlin of Sumner and Spencer Vela of Moses Lake to advance into the championship bracket where he lost to Union’s Junior Godinho.

Holston beat Justin Parker of Granger by a first-period pin and lost the next round to Hudson Mauseth of Moses Lake, 5-3. Holston next defeated Tumwater’s Clark Smith, 5-1, in the championship bracket but had to take an injury default in his next match.

Coleman lost to Romney Noel of Issaquah in his first round, pinned Olympia’s Ryder Biscay in the consolation bracket and lost to Granger’s David Cantu to end his run.

Schmekel said he was very pleased with the performance level of his wrestlers.

“The tournament director complimented me and was very pleased with how competitive and tough our guys were, being that we were from a small B school,” Schmekel said.

The Mountain Lions will travel to Tonasket Saturday (Jan. 18) for the Apple Pie Tournament and be in Chelan Tuesday (Jan. 21).