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It's T-Dome time for Knight grapplers
Andres Garcia will enter the state wrestling championships on a one-match losing streak, his longest of the season.
The 189-pound Bremerton senior lost for just the second time this season Saturday, falling to freshman Clinton Coulter of Union 5-4 in the championship match of the Class 3A Region III tournament at Bremerton High School.
The second-place finish means Garcia is in the 16-man Mat Classic bracket at 189 where he'll face Everett's Jerry Contreras in the first round, but he's not a regional champion.
A source of motivation? Without a doubt.
"It's good," a soft-spoken Garcia said following the match. "Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose."
"I lost this one, but that's OK. I'll get him next week. I feel like I could have beat him. Next time we wrestle it'll be different, it'll be a different outcome."
Garcia should be confident; he's holds a 25-2 season record and enters Mat Classic wrestling with a purpose.
It appeared as though Garcia had the match wrapped up after he broke a 3-3 tie with a reversal to go up 4-3 inside the one-minute mark. But with less than 10 seconds remaining, Coulter scored a takedown and two points to secure a 5-4 lead and the eventual win.
"I just wasn't wrestling that smart toward the end of the match," Garcia said. "We were both really tired. I was hurting."
Seconds after Garcia's reversal made the score 4-3, Coulter seemingly locked hands with Garcia but wasn't called for the one-point penalty, which would have made the score 5-3. Coulter's ensuing takedown consequently made the score 5-4 rather than 5-5, eliminating what would have been sudden-death overtime.
"At that point I was still kind of confused because I thought the score was 5-3," Garcia said of the locking hands no-call, coming after he chose the down position following his reversal.
But Garcia also credited Coulter, who is on the opposite side the Mat Classic bracket, meaning the two could face each other in the state championship match if they both win their first three matches.
"He's the best freshman I've ever wrestled," Garcia said. "He's really good, he's huge."
Now Garcia, who pinned his first two opponents en route to the title match, looks to have a good showing at the final tournament of his high school wrestling career.
What's it going to take?
"Just more hard work," Garcia said. "I've got to prepare better for matches like this."
Garcia wasn't the only Knight who advanced to Mat Classic thanks to a strong showing over the weekend. Lauren Richardson won a regional championship on the girls side at 103, while Andrew Belliveau (119) took third in boys action. Cody King is a state alternate thanks to a fifth-place finish.
Richardson defeated No. 1-ranked Edilene Cuevas of Curtis at Emerald Ridge High School in Puyallup to earn the regional title as well as a No. 1 seed to Mat Classic.
"It was pretty intense," said Richardson, who arrived to BHS in time to see Garcia's title match. "I knew I could win, I just had to set my mind to it. I had butterflies."
Cuevas and Richardson faced each other at state last year, but Richardson was disqualified from that match. That history fueled Richardson to beat Cuevas.
"It was just a mental thing," she said. "I just had to believe I'm the best."
Now, with a No. 1 seed and the momentum of a regional title, the ingredients are there for Richardson to make a deep run at the state championships.
"I want to win it all, that's my goal," Richardson said. "Take it one match at a time, that's what you gotta do."
Bremerton coach Jeff Barton called it a "big day" for Richardson, but he also praised King for grinding out a fifth-place finish.
"He had a heck of a tournament," Barton said of King. "He's been fighting through some injury issues. He just battled back and wrestled really well."
Mat Classic weigh-in is at 8 a.m. Friday. First-round matches begin at 10 a.m.