Nine from LBHS advance to regionals
Liberty Bell High School juniors Damien Spears and Cassidy Jones-Mowen wrestled to District 6 Sub-Regional titles on Saturday (Feb. 3) and will lead a nine-member Mountain Lion contingent into regional action this coming weekend.
Three girls and six boys will move forward, each placing fourth or better in their respective tournaments, the boys in Omak and the girls at Ephrata.
Mariah Paz placed second at 110 pounds in Ephrata, while Yolo Paz and Liam Kiefer placed third in their weight classes. Javier Lopez-Velasco, Richie Lara, Rylan Burnette and Maeve Belsby each brought home fourth-place medals, qualifying for the final step toward the state Mat Classic in Tacoma in two weeks.
Soren Stevie and Kegan Mitchell have been named as alternates, and will accompany the team to regionals after their fifth-place performances. It is the largest post-COVID representation of Mountain Lions at regionals, and the largest Liberty Bell girls’ team to advance.
Freshmen boys Sam Kaltenbach and Trevon Karlsen each won one bout at districts and are energized and ready to get on to next season.
Indeed, the youth movement in Liberty Bell wrestling will see only two seniors, Mariah Paz and Lucy Riggs, graduate this year with a healthy group of incoming frosh next year, moving up from the middle school program.
Overtaking in Omak
It was a limited field in the boys’ 215-pound class at Omak, with only five wrestlers, which meant a first-round bye for No. 1-seeded Spears. The bracket went according to “chalk,” a term used to describe a tournament where the higher seeds win all the way to the final. Spears pinned Okanogan’s Jacob Randall in the first period of the quarterfinal bout, while No. 2 seed Austin Morgan (Okanogan) did the same to John Desautel of Lake Roosevelt.
Morgan and Spears locked up in a struggle that lasted all three periods with no scoring in the first two. In the third, Spears started from the “down” position, and the two struggled for almost a minute before the Mountain Lion junior was able to break free and score a point for an escape at 1:52 left in the bout. Spears scored a two-point takedown with :51 remaining to go up 3-0. Morgan broke free with 20 seconds showing, but was unable to corral Spears and had to settle for just one point on the escape as the clock ran out.
Freshman Yolo Paz, as the No. 3 seed into districts, advanced to the quarterfinals on a first-round bye. There he pinned Oroville’s Jose Arriaga in the first period to move into the semi-finals, where Okanogan’s No. 2 seed War Camel awaited.
Camel scored a two-point takedown late in the first period and the combatants battled through a scoreless second period. Paz opted for the “down” position to open the third period and scored an escape to close the gap to 2-1 at 1:25 remaining. A mere 14 seconds later, Paz executed a lightning quick move and scored a takedown for a 3-2 lead with 1:11 showing.
Somewhere in the struggle, Camel got hold of Paz’s left thumb, causing an injury, and a yelp, that stopped the bout immediately for medical assistance. After treatment by meet medical staff and a quick tape job, the match resumed with Camel in the down position. The Okanogan junior was able to break free at :25 seconds, then score a quick takedown on the noticeably handicapped Paz at :18 seconds to win the match, 5-3.
Liberty Bell Coach Kyle Erickson was visibly upset with tournament officials, but refused to comment immediately afterward. Paz, for his part, finished the tournament, left hand wrapped in tape, with a pair of consolation-round falls, pinning another Bulldog, Joseph Kruse, at 21 seconds into the second period, and then a middle second period win by fall over early round Hornet opponent Arriaga for the third-place trophy and regional invitation.
“It’s OK,” said the feisty freshman, flexing the injured thumb moments after the injury.
If there was a mild surprise in the tournament for Liberty Bell, it might have come from freshman Liam Kiefer in the 144-pound bracket. Kiefer was the No. 4 seed in the four-member bracket and, as such, was an automatic regional qualifier. Kiefer had to face No. 1 Tyge Plank of Tonasket in his first bout and suffered a first-period fall, but recovered to pin Lake Roosevelt’s Colin Chaney in the third period of the third-place bout.
Freshman Richie Lara’s fourth-place finish at 138 pounds came from the No. 5 seed position. He scored a 3-0 decision over Andrew Pruett of Oroville, dropped a 14-0 major decision to eventual champion Logan Stucker of Tonasket, eliminated Isaac Circle of Lake Roosevelt on a second-period fall, then lost a 2-0 decision Gus Ray of Tonasket. Javier Lopez-Velasco followed a similar path to his fourth-place finish in the 132 -pound bracket, winning two and losing two matches.
The last stop before the state Mat Classic is this Saturday at Tonasket High School for the regional qualifier. The top four placers from Tonasket advance to Tacoma.
Earning it at Ephrata
Six Liberty Bell girls made the trip to Ephrata for the District 6 “small school” sub-regional tournament, where three girls advanced to regionals in Quincy this Saturday, and three saw their seasons end.
Kady Hammer, Nova Gehring and Lucy Riggs have been integral parts of the girls’ wrestling roster, the first numerically significant high school-aged girls’ team in Methow Valley history. Gehring, a freshman in the 120-pound class, was close to advancing, according to volunteer assistant Tom McCulloch, who traveled with the girls to Ephrata.
“She just needed one point,” said McCulloch of Gehring’s effort. “We thought she could have gotten it awarded when her opponent was trying to stall.”
With the score tied 2-2 in the later portion of the second period, it appeared to the Liberty Bell throng that a stalling point could have been awarded against Ephrata’s Noemi Vallejo as she tried to work her way toward the mat boundary. No point was awarded, and the match remained tied through the final period, where Vallejo scored an overtime takedown to advance in the third-place bracket.
Freshman 100-pounder Maeve Belsby, a No. 5 seed, opened some eyes in her quarterfinal bout in Ephrata when she pinned the No. 4 seed Nelly Szalam just 26 seconds into their quarterfinal bout. That was the good news. Lurking was Allison Guererro of Quincy, the No. 9 state-ranked and top tournament seeded senior Jackrabbit. Guererro had just won her first bout in similar fashion at just 54 seconds.
Belsby gave Guererro her toughest test of the tourney, making it halfway through the second period before the eventual champion got the best of the freshman in a win by fall. Belsby took her Manson opponent, Samantha Willoughby, by fall in the third round before a trophy-round loss to Omak senior Mackenzie Hoffman. Belsby’s fourth place qualified her for a trip to the regional tournament this Saturday.
Senior Mariah Paz rode her No. 3 seed all the way to the tournament final, defeating Harlie Torgeson (Quincy) and No. 2 seed Izzabel Cruz (Tonasket), both by second-period falls. Awaiting Paz in the championship was No. 10 state-ranked and district top seed Crystal Perez, a freshman from Quincy. Perez had won both of her early matches easily, also by falls.
The first period saw 12 points being put up in the first two minutes. Perez was first on the board with a takedown for two. Paz escaped only four seconds later for one. Almost immediately, Perez registered another takedown of the Mountain Lion senior, scoring three points. Paz answered with an escape and a takedown of her own. Perez managed a late escape and the period ended with the young Jackrabbit ahead, 8-4.
Perez put more distance between them, scoring a 4-1 win of the second period for a 12-5 advantage.
Paz started the third period in the down position, scoring a quick reversal for two points. Perez got out of her grip and scored one for an escape, but a flurry of activity from Paz earned her five points with a takedown and three-point near fall, closing the gap to 13-12 with 33 seconds left in the match. Paz then was assessed three penalty points in an eight second span between :29 and :21, two for a locking hold and one for crossing the official. Perez closed with a two-point reversal and the final 18-12 margin.
Liberty Bell’s No. 3 state-ranked Cassidy Jones-Mowen was on her game at Ephrata. Carrying the No. 2 seed into the tournament, the Mountain Lion junior was equal to the task, winning her first two matches over Ashley Hernandez of Chelan and Abygail Vargas of the Lake Roosevelt in the first period, wrestling for a total of 2:01 for two pins.
Leslie Sanchez-Guererro outpointed Jones-Mowen through the first two periods by a score of 6-1, and it looked like trouble was on the horizon for the Mountain Lion. But, starting in the up position to open the third period, Jones-Mowen went to work and 34 seconds into the final period, Sanchez Guererro was on her back, the referee was slapping the mat, and the first-place medal was headed north to the Liberty Bell trophy case.