It’s hard to believe that Mat Classic turns the ripe old age of 25 this weekend. The WIAA has been commemorating the milestone by soliciting favorite memories from athletes, coaches and fans, and I certainly have plenty.
Like wondering in horror, the first time I stepped in the Tacoma Dome for the all-inclusive state wrestling championships, how in the world I would cover the wall-to-wall event.
But for someone who has not missed a single Mat Classic while here at the Herald-Republic, my favorite memory has nothing to do with wrestling and can be summed up in two words.
Not me personally, you understand, although recent complications with appendicitis makes me think I’ve at least had a glimpse of it. No, this was my wife, Joan, whose efforts to set a state record for fastest labor and delivery led me to whiff on two things on Feb. 16, 1991 — the championship finals of Mat Classic III and the birth of our daughter, Kristine.
What kind of man leaves his hugely pregnant wife in Yakima while dashing to the westside on a multi-day business trip? One who was led to believe she was still a week away, one who was certain he could return very quickly if need be and one who was told after Friday’s quarterfinals that everything seemed fine.
Which it was. Until just after we spoke and I ventured across the street to a neighboring hotel to have a nightcap with my good friend and colleague Jeff Morrow from the Tri-City Herald. We found the lounge to be too crowded and noisy so we did the next best thing, grabbing a six-pack and relaxing in his room while complaining and laughing about this and that.
All the while the ball in Times Square was beginning to drop for Joan, and what started as simple cramps — around the time of my status-check call — had become contractions.
So Joan called my hotel. No luck. I told her I might cross the street for a visit to the lounge with some of the media gang, so she had me paged in the lobby and lounge there. Again, no luck.
So the blessed act was happening and I was sucking down brews in a Fife hotel. And this was long before the days of cell phones. That’s Joan’s husband — what a guy!
When the beer ran out and Jeff and I tired of ranting and raving, I headed down the elevator and ran into Grandview coach Richard Esparza, who said, “Hey, Scott, your wife’s in labor. You know that, right?” He had been in the lobby and heard the page.
Holy crap! I sprinted across the street and found a note on my door and a message on the phone. I called the hospital and talked to a nurse who considered my estimated drive time and Joan’s present condition and basically said I had two chances: Slim and none.
Nonsense. I was focused, determined and equipped with an eager Mazda MX-6 and freeway all the way home. I flew.
But so did Kristine. Within one hour of checking into the hospital, Joan gave birth at 3:37 a.m. – while I was somewhere around Cle Elum convinced I would make it. My daughter was an hour old when I finally showed up, still flush with adrenaline and excitement. When I held her for the first time she opened one critical eye as if to say, “Look, pal, I wait for no man.”
Kristine turns 22 on Saturday and that championship day in 1991 remains the only part of Mat Classic history that I’ve missed. I’ve covered well over 100 state champions in the Dome and I’m sorry I missed the seven from that year, which included one of Esparza’s kids, George Graf.
But as Robin Williams’ line from Good Will Hunting goes, “Sorry guys, I had to see about a girl.”
Grizzlies’ Big 10
Nearly every year throughout George Paulus’ 25-year tenure as Sunnyside’s wrestling coach the Grizzlies have had the individual talent to make the top 10 and bid for a trophy at Mat Classic.
But this year Sunnyside has something else — numbers.
With two-time medalist and 2012 finalist Jesse Barajas leading the way, fourth-ranked Sunnyside has 10 qualifiers in the 3A state championships, a program high under Paulus.
Only two-time defending champion Enumclaw has more entries with 12, and Deactur reached double digits as well with 10. Top-ranked University has nine qualifiers, six of whom were regional champions.
Barajas, last year’s state runner-up at 106 as a sophomore, is 19-0 this season at 113 and hasn’t given up a takedown. Santos Guerrero is a returning state placer with a 26-7 record at 120, and 106 teammates Homer Romero and Jesse Torres have a shot at meeting in the semifinal to guarantee a finalist.
Granger vs. Zillah
Top-ranked Granger has nine of its 10 qualifiers ranked in the top seven, and No. 2 Zillah has six of its nine entries ranked in the top six in the pre-state 1A rankings.
What Granger has going for it: Joshua Salcedo’s bid for a third straight title and Victor and Ricky Almaguer poised to rack up big points at 113.
What Zillah has going for it: Last year the Leopards were 9-for-9 on state qualifiers and medalists and five of them are back.
Fifth-ranked Castle Rock has a tournament-high 12 qualifiers and Blaine has 11, but top-tier talent is what should set this SCAC West pair apart.
Around the mats
• The Valley has three unbeatens at Mat Classic — Sunnyside’s Jesse Barajas (3A, 113, 19-0), East Valley’s Anton Yates (2A, 170, 33-0) and Granger’s Joshua Salcedo (1A, 120, 20-0).
• Salcedo became a member of the 100-win club last season and is up to 133, including a 100-0 run over the last three years. The club picked up six new members this season — Selah’s Kody Ergeson (120 wins), Granger’s Adrian Guerrero (112), Highland’s Andres Tereza (110), Granger’s Abidan Duarte (103), Zillah’s Cortes Hernandez (102) and Mabton’s Vicente Mireles (101).
• Grandview’s Marizza Birrueta, ranked No. 1 at 100 pounds, is 11-0 vs. girls and 25-8 overall. In the first tournament of the season she edged Centralia’s Isabella Silva-Pires 7-6. Silva-Pires was last year’s state runner-up and is ranked second. They are in opposite semifinal brackets.
• The Valley has a total of 82 in the field. Here’s the breakdown: 4A (3), 3A (10), 2A (18), 1A (29), 2B (9), Girls (13).
• Scott Spruill’s prep blog is at www.yakimaherald.com/blogs/prepsblog/ He can be reached at 509-759-7852 or email@example.com