YAKIMA, Wash. -- A universal truth at Mat Classic: Depth dominates.
But for those seeking the team podium at the 31st edition of the state high school wrestling championships, depth will be the major player more than ever before this weekend.
For our local aspirants, this could be very good or a tough break.
With the cancelation of all regional tournaments last week, the WIAA drafted 32-entry state brackets for Friday and Saturday and that created all sorts of depth-related opportunities for well-populated teams.
Not that Toppenish needed any help, but the Wildcats — ranked not only No. 1 in Class 2A but for all classes — is most assuredly one of those teams with 18 strong.
“When we told the kids about the news with regionals, everybody was super excited about it and happy for their teammates,” said coach Johnny Cerna. “They understand we’re deep and we’re taking good numbers. We missed being able to compete at regionals, but our kids know how to compete in our (wrestling) room. We look at this as a positive, definitely.”
Toppenish has all the makings of a title team — three returning state champions, a total of eight former medalists and an exceptional freshmen class. Even so, winning the program’s third title in four years won’t be a walk on the mats.
White River, the defending champion who unseated the Wildcats with a 2A-record 221 points a year ago, is ranked second — in 2A and for all classes — with a hefty team of 21, including two returning champions and a half dozen other medalists. Orting, which edged Toppenish for second last year, has 18 qualifiers.
Granger’s boys, like those at Toppenish, are ranked No. 1 and hoping to return to the top after winning a championship in 2017. But in the 1A tournament, the Spartans could have the issue of depth work against them.
While still loaded with a two-time champion, five other former medalists and some elite-level freshmen, Granger will take 12 to state. Second-ranked Colville, with a streak of four consecutive runner-up trophies, has 17 entries with three returning champions and No. 3 Forks has 16 qualifiers.
“Our spirits are high, but we’ll have to overcome some teams with bigger numbers,” said coach Richard Sanchez. “We would normally count on regionals weeding things out a little, so we’ll have to rely on quality over quantity. We’ve got a very good group and we’ll definitely give it a go.”
Sunnyside’s girls have an even dozen heading to Tacoma, where the Grizzlies are expected to engage in a tight three-team race for the title. Based on the ranking system used by the Washington Wrestling Report, No. 1 White River, No. 2 Sunnyside and No. 3 Union are separated by only four points.
“This is one of the reasons we packed our schedule with some difficult tournaments and some tough competition,” said coach David Mendoza. “We wanted the girls to feel confident about their experiences and in themselves.”
White River has nine entries while Union will bring in seven. While the Grizzlies have superior numbers, it’s Mat Classic experience they lack with just two returning medalists. Both, however, are former runner-up veterans in senior Stephanie Blankenship and junior Lourdes Torres.