Cougars rule wrestling sub-regionals

If this is a rebuilding year — and Central Kitsap wrestling coach Jim Northcutt says it is — then you can’t help but wonder what the Cougars are going to be like next year.

Central, wrestling on its home mat, dominated the Narrows League Bridge Division Sub-Regional Tournament on Saturday, Feb. 2. The Cougars produced five individual champions and piled up 355 points to win the team title over regular season dual-meet champion South Kitsap (295). Olympic (255) placed third in the seven-team tournament.

Central secured 15 of the league’s 56 berths for this weekend’s regional tournament in Snohomish. Only three of CK’s qualifiers are seniors, while seven are sophomores.

Eight Cougars reached the finals. CK’s murderer’s row of Jason Mendez (130), Chad Eickmeyer (135) and Mike Frerichs (140) all won titles, as did Tyler Moyer (189) and Austin Jennings (215). Austin Templeton (103), Tyler Cowgill (145) and Josh Martinelli (152) placed second.

The big (Josh Allbee at 275) and little (Alex Jaime at 103) of Olympic High’s program won individual titles for the Trojans, which is sending nine wrestlers to regionals.

The top four finishers in each weight earned trips to Snohomish, where they’ll battle with the top-four finishers from the WesCo South and WesCo North for four spots to the Mat Classic, Feb. 15-16 at the Tacoma Dome.

“Like I’ve said all year, I’ve got five horses. If I can get all five horses in (to state), and pick up a couple bonus ones, I’d really be happy,” Northcutt said. “If we get five in through the front door, we’ll be pretty high in the team (race) because that’s a tough region and everybody’s going to chew each other up.”

The “horses” are Mendez, Eickmeyer, Frerichs, Moyer and Martinelli, who lost a hard-fought 7-5 decision to North Kitsap’s Clark Hutchman, a state placer a year ago, in the finals.

Mendez (27-2), who hasn’t lost since teammate Eickmeyer beat him during the Tri-State Tournament in Idaho in mid-December, posted three straight major decisions and seems on track to get back to state, where he was 1-2 last year as a junior.

Mendez, who beat South’s Brandon Little 13-4 in the finals, says he’s just taking it one match at a time.

“I don’t want to get too cocky,” Mendez said. “I don’t want to be comfortable about winning. Everybody’s competition. The guys at the bottom, the ones no one knows about, are the ones to worry about. ... I look at everyone as a challenge. If I didn’t, I’d overlook people.”

The lanky Eickmeyer (28-3) won another tight match against Bremerton’s Eric Smith, 13-11, in the finals. Like Mendez, he’s cool on his feet, and just keeps doing what it takes to win.

CK’s Frerichs (21-4), who brings an almost psycho-like approach to the mat, dominated his weight, pinning North Kitsap’s Philip Baker for the 140-pound title.

Northcutt thought Frerichs would face teammate Jason Sencil in the finals, but Sencil was surprised, 15-13, by South Kitsap’s Jon Cisney in his first match. Sencil recovered, winning four straight to place third.

The athletic Moyer (27-2) was the only sophomore to win a title, and looked impressive doing it.

Jennings and South Kitsap’s Jon Potts were locked up in a tense, scoreless duel after two rounds at 215. Jennings was behind 2-1 going into the final minute, but got a two-point reversal with 45 seconds left and hung on for the victory.

“It felt really good,” said an elated Jennings. “It was the first tournament this whole season I’ve taken first at. This is my senior year and I want to go out with a bang. I think I’ve got a good chance to go to state.”

Northcutt said Jennings “stepped up big-time. I thought he would. He’s a senior and he was determined. It was good for him and it was definitely the time you want to step up.”

Central had a lot of kids step up.

“Malcolm Peterson (171) stepped up and got fourth. He beat a kid that had beaten him all year,” Northcutt said. “Josh Thompson (112) hadn’t beaten the Olympic kid (Nathan Reese) in three years, but he got him today and finished fourth. Sometimes you just got to want it more. We had some kids who just wanted it more today.”

Mendez, Jennings and Thompson are CK’s only seniors going to regionals. Central’s also sending four alternates.

Olympic’s veteran coach Darryl Smith was pleased to have nine Trojans, plus three alternates, still alive at this stage of the season.

Jaime had the least mat-time at sub-regionals. After a first-round bye, he won by forfeit in the semifinals over teammate Josh Kasey and needed just 1:04 to pin CK’s Austin Templeton in the finals.

Olympic’s Allbee, who relies on a thick, powerful lower body, pinned three opponents, including Bremerton’s Joel Garrett, in the finals.

Olympic’s Ryan Wheeler (119) and Clyde Switzer (171) placed second.

Wheeler (22-6) was pinned by South Kitsap’s Derek Kipperberg, but the Olympic wrestler managed to put the Wolves’ star on his back earlier in the match before getting caught in a cradle midway through the second round.

“He’s a tough kid,” Smith said of Wheeler, who’s wrestling with a cracked sternum. “He’s got a chance to get to state, but he’s in a tough weight class.”

Switzer was pinned by Bremerton nemesis Adam Gent (21-4) in the finals. Gent’s now 3-0 against Switzer this year.

“Where you place here isn’t so important as getting in,” Smith said. “You gotta get there or it’s all over.”

Sub-regional winners earn a first-round bye, but Smith said, “If a No. 4 beats a No. 1, then he’s got that No. 1 seed for the rest of the tournament, and you see that happen all the time, especially at state.”

Twenty-three of the state’s Class 4A schools will be in Snohomish, including Lake Stevens, which won the last two state 3A titles before moving up in classification this year.

“It’s a tough, tough region,” Smith said. “Hopefully the guys will wrestle the best of the year this week. That’s what they’ll need to do to move on.”

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