Liberty Bell High School went three-for-three over the weekend at regional wrestling tournaments as Cassidy Jones-Mowen, Cody White and Noah Holston all qualified for the WIAA State Championships, also known as the Mat Classic, this coming Friday and Saturday (Feb. 18-19) in the Tacoma Dome.
Jones-Mowen, a freshman, becomes the first female to represent the Mountain Lions at the Mat Classic, while seniors White and Holston continue the long tradition of Liberty Bell at the championship meet.
Wrestling at the regional meet in Ephrata, where schools were not separated by enrollment numbers, Jones-Mowen entered as the No. 2 seed after winning the district title in her weight class (135 pounds) the previous week. With that seeding came the luxury of a first-round bye. Her first action was a second-round tussle with Kyndra Casias of 4A Richland. Jones-Mowen pinned Casias a little over halfway through the third round.
That victory sent her into the semi-final bracket where No. 3 seed Ruby Clark of Toppenish awaited. Clark scored the victory by fall at 5:43, only 17 seconds before the final bell of the match, sending her into the final and Jones-Mowen to the third-place consolation bracket, where a rematch with Anna Hume of Kettle Falls loomed.
It was a tight match all the way, but Jones-Mowen defeated the Bulldog sophomore once again, taking the win in a 4-3 squeaker. That win clinched her berth to state and sent her into the third-place trophy match against West Valley’s Cassandra Hernandez. The Ram senior got the best of the young Mountain Lion, pinning her to the mat at 1:38 of the first round.
“I wasn’t feeling real good, probably because I wasn’t eating properly,” said the Liberty Bell freshman. “I was tired and my stomach was bothering me most of the day.”
First year coach Joe Downing said that they have gone through a reset of goals with Jones-Mowen. “At first it was let’s see if we can get her to districts, but now? Well …”
“There are a lot of older girls there, so I hope I do well and learn some stuff,” said Jones-Mowen of the Mat Classic opportunity. Indeed, she is the only freshman in the field of 20 wrestlers at 135 pounds.
Holston and White traveled to Warden High School, south of Moses Lake, for the 1B/2B Regional get together Saturday and both qualified for a trip to Tacoma with solid performances. White brought home a third-place finish while Holston bested his runner-up placing at last week’s sub-regional with the regional title on Saturday.
Wrestling at 145 pounds, White was the No. 5 seed in the bracket. He opened his tournament with a 12-3 major decision win over Goldendale’s Seth Lucatero and pinned No. 4 seed Layton Kettner of Liberty (Spangle) in the second round. His third match was a loss, 8-3, to No. 1 seed and eventual champion Lionel Castro (Granger), sending him into the third-place bracket. White then battled for a tough 5-3 decision over Josiah Skindzier (Kittitas) and defeated NCW rival Christian Carson with a pin at 2:04 of that trophy round match to claim third place and his entry to state.
Holston entered the regional tournament as the No. 5 seed in the class, but still benefited from a first-round bye. In the quarterfinals, he pinned Davenport’s Brock Gustaveson at 2:35, Birch Verdino of River View at 0:47 of the first frame, and it took all but the last 30 seconds of the championship match to pin Tonasket’s Granger Sutton at 5:30. With the three wins, Holston ran his 2021-22 season record to 25-1 as he prepares for state.
Holston qualified for the Mat Classic in his freshman year, then was eliminated his sophomore year at the regional level. Having missed last year altogether because the tournament was canceled, this is his last chance, and he is making the most of it.
With Holston, the drive is not just his own, but one of tradition. His two older brothers, Milo and Finley, both placed highly at the Mat Classic, each winning at least one state championship. Noah had that as his goal the first time we talked with him, at a pre-season workout in late November.
Holston is the first to admit there is still more to do. “I was pretty bummed,” said Holston of his elimination in 2020, “but it’s a motivator for me.” Looking at the state bracket, released on Sunday, Holston sees a few accomplished rivals ready to deny him his quest.
White’s story is similar to Holston’s. His first trip to the Mat Classic was his freshman year when he placed fourth in the 106-pound class. He also was eliminated at the regional level two years ago, and did not wrestle in the COVID-canceled junior season. So he, too, is driven to wrestle well at this year’s tournament.
“My season has been pretty good,” said White. He is listed as 18-6 on the year in the 145-pound weight class. “I’m hoping to place higher than I did my freshman year.”
Downing has an optimistic take on his three charges. “I’m pretty confident in Noah. I think he has the best shot to win his weight class. Cody has a good chance to place in the top three, and if things go right, he could place highly. Cassidy should do well, too.”
Up-to-date results and brackets are found at wiaa.com>sports/activities>wrestling, then click on the green box “Mat Classic XXXIII Brackets.”
Youth wrestling registration
Registration is still open through the month of March for the Methow Valley’s Youth Wrestling Program. For younger kids of elementary school age, the program will run from the end of March through April and into May as an after school activity several days a week. For details and registration information, contact Joe Downing at (425) 232-7449.