Skyline, Eastlake grapplers heading for Mat Classic
February 18, 2014
By Neil Pierson
Joseph DeMatteo is no stranger to the unique pressures of Mat Classic, and he’ll be one of the most experienced wrestlers on the Tacoma Dome floor this weekend.
DeMatteo, a Skyline High School senior, clinched his fourth bid to the state wrestling tournament by finishing third at 145 pounds at the Class 4A Region 2 championships, held Feb. 15 at Inglemoor High School in Kenmore.
He’ll be looking to finish in the top eight and win his first medal, after previously coming up short at 126, 113 and 103 pounds. Being a state veteran should help him.
“I think I really just have a mental edge on the competition because I’ve been there four times, so I know what mindset I need to be in,” DeMatteo said. “New guys kind of get nervous when they’re at state, and it’s just a lot to take in with 24 mats at the T-Dome.”
DeMatteo will face Kentwood senior Dalton Meyers Feb. 21 in a first-round state match.
He had to work hard to become a four-time state qualifier. In his regional opener, he trailed Union’s Judah Reynolds 2-1 late in the third period. But he used a Whizzer, a common defensive tactic, and a half-Nelson to flip Reynolds onto his back for a near fall and a 4-2 win.
DeMatteo lost 12-2 to Woodinville’s Dalton Mann in the semifinals, but clinched his state berth by pinning Battle Ground’s Taylor Stewart. That earned him a rematch with Reynolds, and DeMatteo won 6-1 to claim third place.
Skyline scored 74 points to finish eighth out of 17 teams at regionals. The Spartans qualified five wrestlers for Mat Classic XXVI.
Their other top-four regional placers included freshman Zach Froeber (second, 106 pounds); junior Nathan Swanson (third, 120); senior Tristan Steciw (third, 132); and sophomore Bo Longmore (fourth, 170).
Swanson will make his second trip to Mat Classic after an 0-2 finish as a sophomore 106-pounder. He also believes prior experience should bode well.
“It helps a lot to not get blown away once you get there,” he said. “It’s just so unbelievable how many people are there, how many mats are there. I think the second time I’ll do a lot better, know what it feels like.”
Swanson faced a win-or-go-home regional match with Newport’s Diego Dwyer. Swanson built a 9-5 lead in the third period, then punctuated it with a pin in the dying seconds.
“He kept throwing me,” Swanson said, “but I stayed calm, caught him in the legs, and I ended up sticking him.”
At state, Swanson will open with Moses Lake sophomore Clayton Clark.
Froeber earned the runner-spot at 106 with an injury-default win over Roosevelt’s Bradon Blackstone, and a second-period pin of Camas’ Max Grimes. He lost, 12-3, in the title match to Heritage senior Jordan Zuniga.
Steciw sewed up his state berth at 132 with a 5-0 decision over Woodinville’s Cole Morrison. Longmore moved on at 170 thanks to a first-period pin of Eastlake’s Ryan Wasserman.
Eastlake qualified one individual for state as freshman Martin Miller took fourth place at 106 pounds.
Miller had to battle back after getting pinned in his regional debut. He responded with a pin of Issaquah’s William Tickman, and punched his ticket for Tacoma with a thrilling comeback against Camas’ Grimes.
Trailing 8-4 with about 30 seconds left, Miller got a takedown and quickly moved into near-fall position, earning the five points he needed for a 9-8 decision.
Miller said he saw an opening and exploited it. The freshman will taken on Arlington’s Jeremy Nygard in his state debut, and getting this far is a credit to the Wolves’ coaching staff, he indicated.
“My coaches are awesome,” Miller said. “They’re always pushing us, and they’re like, ‘If you guys put in the effort, we will take you to state.’ So it feels good after a bunch of hard work this season to make state.”
EC’S IWICKI MOVES ON
Eastside Catholic School junior Matt Iwicki, a Sammamish resident, will have a chance to defend his 2013 state championship.
Iwicki finished second at 132 pounds at the Class 3A Region 1 championships, held Feb. 15 at Nathan Hale High School in Seattle.
Iwicki came up short in the regional final, falling 7-3 to Oak Harbor’s Jeremy Vester. But he won easily against Everett’s Christian Bagdadi (7-0 decision) and O’Dea’s Blaise Balinbin (first-period pin).
Iwicki was a third-place finisher at state as a freshman, and claimed the 120-pound crown last season. He’ll open Mat Classic XXVI Feb. 21 against Lincoln senior Robert Mathews.