Mixed emotions for Buccaneers

TACOMA — Saturday didn’t unfold the way Kingston wrestling coach Bobby Reece envisioned.

On one hand, the career of a senior came to an unfortunate end. On the other, the Buccaneers got a glimpse at just how bright the future might be.

After Kingston senior Sasha Jantz, wrestling at 125 pounds, saw his high school career end when he missed making weight at the morning’s weigh-in by just .1 pounds, Reece said he felt his stomach sink.

“After we started off with Sasha not making weight, it was overwhelming,” he said. “Especially as a first-year coach. But after I talked to the team, refocused a little bit, I knew we would wrestle well on the mat.”

Reece was right on the money, as the Buccaneers will send three to next weekend’s Mat Classic as both 103er Logan Hixson and 112er Alex Lambert both won regional crowns and senior team captain Willis Castle, at 119, finished in third to advance to the state’s wrestling championships at the Tacoma Dome.

“It’s a good way to close it out when you’re young guys are the ones on the mat wrestling for championships,” Reece said. “For a first-year school, we’re going home with two champions today.”

The morning weigh-in wasn’t the only source of ire for the Bucs, who were without two more wrestlers due to illness. In fact, another, Alex Dickson at 145, gave the tourney a go despite also feeling ill, going two-and-out. The Bucs were without heavyweight Gage Leigh and 189er Freddy Rudolph, both of whom qualified out of sub-regionals.

“The timing is just unfortunate,” Reece said. “But you can’t control the timing. We just want to stay on a positive note. They’ll have their day.”

Knowing they’d have their day put Jantz’s tough ending into perspective even more.

“That’s not how you want to end your wrestling career,” Reece said. “You want to end your wrestling career competing. I don’t even know what to say.”

And while disappointing, Reece said Jantz can still hold his head high following a season that saw him win the sub-regional title.

“I know he feels like he let a lot of people down,” Reece said. “But not me.”

While Kingston had some tumultuous moments at the meet, it was moments like Castle’s that made the meet a success for the Bucs.

“Honestly, I don’t know if I’ve seen anybody work harder than Willis Castle,” Reece said.

Wrestling up most of the season at 119, Castle actually weighs about 114, giving up some precious pounds to opponents throughout the year. After dominating Steilacoom freshman Matt Trinkle with an 18-1 technical fall, Castle got pinned by eventual champ John Cushman. In consolation, Castle pinned North Mason’s Sam Newman in 2 minutes, 30 seconds before then beating Eatonville’s Brandon Martin 10-4 to take third and earn a spot at state.

“For him to wrestle 119 all year long and to have it all come down to a match like that to advance to the state tournament, it’s a huge sense of relief for me as a coach,” Reece said.

Now Reece hopes Castle can continue his run.

“At the beginning of the year, it was his goal to make it to the state tourney,” Reece said. “Now, we’ve asked him to raise that goal.”

Hixson became the first regional champ for Kingston when he edged North Mason’s Josh Jackson 4-3 in a tough final match. Hixson started out building a 4-0 lead before a near-fall late made it close. Hixson was able to hang on for the win.

At 112, Lambert matched up with Port Townsend’s Ryan Unbedacht, cruising to a 15-4 win. In fact, Lambert went up 7-0 before Unbedacht finally scored on an escape.

“We’ll walk out of the room extremely confident for our future,” Reece said of the sophomore champions.

Daniel Talamge (112) placed fifth, as did 160 grappler Allen Webber. Brandon McGahan (119) was sixth.

While the day still had it’s difficulties for Kingston, Reece said it was nice to end on some big positive notes.

“I’m totally different than I was at the beginning of the day,” he said. “It was definitely an emotional roller coaster.”

The state tournament begins Friday at 9 a.m.

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