Lauren Richardson: Queen of 103

After rolling through the first two rounds of Mat Classic XXI and surviving the third, Bremerton’s Lauren Richardson found herself wrestling for a state championship.

She capitalized on the opportunity.

The 103-pound sophomore, who entered Mat Classic as a West Central District III regional champion, made quick work of Jomae Alewine of Lake Stevens in the girls 103 title match at the Tacoma Dome Feb. 21 to become Bremerton’s first female state wrestling champion.

With older brother and former BHS grappling star Billy Richardson cheering her on matside, Lauren Richardson secured the title with a pin with about 50 seconds remaining in the second period. The score was tied 2-2.

“This is the happiest moment of my life,” Richardson said, beaming. “I knew I could do it.”

Richardson took a 2-0 lead 15 seconds into the match with a takedown, but Alewine, who Richardson beat at regionals last year, tied it 2-2 early in the second period with a reversal after Richardson failed on an attempted leg ride, a move she said she rarely attempts.

“At that point I knew I had to pick up the tone a little bit more, be more aggressive,” said Richardson, who finished the season with a 25-7 record.

That’s when Richardson, who BHS coach Jeff Barton calls “Buzzsaw,” turned to a junior high move to score the winning pin.

“I did a junior high move. Most people don’t do junior high moves in high school,” Richardson said. “Once I had her on her back, it was the most exciting thing of my life.”

After the referee signaled the pin, Richardson raised both arms skyward before jumping into the arms of Billy Richardson, then Barton.

“For her to come back and have a goal and have a passion, to get where she’s at right now is pretty exciting,” Barton said. “Every period of every match she’s been exciting to watch.”

Richardson’s road to the finals was relatively smooth. She pinned Meghan Kajca of Emerald Ridge in the first period of the first round, cruised past Everett’s Justine Palabrica 15-0 in Round 2, then edged Ferndale’s Jade Mutappa 5-4 to advance to the finals.

“She set the tone from the very first match,” Barton said. “She just came out gangbusters.”

It was a storybook run for Richardson, who at times this season struggled with self-confidence, particularly early on when she was adapting to not having her brother Billy, who graduated in June and now wrestles at Mesa State College in Colorado, on the team.

“At the beginning of the year I was slacking off,” Richardson said. “With my brother not here anymore, it was pretty tough to keep up the tone in the mat room because he’s my idol and he sets the tone for me.”

Teammate Andres Garcia, a senior, finished third at 189 with a pin at the 1:12 mark of the second period against Mason Remy of Bainbridge Island in the match for third and fourth place.

After building a 2-0 lead through one period, Garcia pinned Remy on a fireman move with the score 5-0 in the second.

“I knew he was stronger than me,” Garcia said, explaining his intent was to be the aggressor throughout the match.

Garcia, who lost 5-3, to Everett’s Jerry Contreras in first-round action Feb. 20 after the referee credited Contreras with a takedown inside the final 15 seconds, called the third-place finish “bittersweet.”

“People kind of just dismissed me after that,” said Garcia, who won five consecutive matches following the early setback to secure third.

One of those wins came in overtime against Union’s Clinton Coulter, who beat Garcia in the Class 3A West Central District championship match Feb. 14.

“A lot of emotions came through when I beat him,” Garcia said. “Once I beat him, I was like, ‘Nobody is gonna stop me now.’”

While the early loss was disappointing — and somewhat surprising — Garcia said he used it to motivate himself going into his remaining matches.

“There must have been a reason for me to lose,” Garcia said. “If I was going to lose that early, then I was going to make it worth it and have the best tournament I could.”

“I’m happy with third, I just wish I didn’t lose my first match because I think I could have made it to the finals.”

Knight senior Andrew Beliveau (119) dropped his opening-round match against Joshua St. Marie of Glacier Peak in overtime, 7-5, but rebounded with a pin against Bonney Lake’s Robby Slick in the consolation bracket to earn a third match.

He then lost to North Thurston’s Patrick Mucha 6-1 in a loser-out match.

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