Warden can pack a punch with just seven wrestlers

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  • Connor Vanderweyst/Columbia Basin Herald Warden’s Robert Arredondo leads a young group of wrestlers into the state tournament.

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    Connor Vanderweyst/Columbia Basin Herald 132-pounder Rodrigo Ozuna enters Mat Classic as a No. 2 seed.

  • Connor Vanderweyst/Columbia Basin Herald Warden’s Robert Arredondo leads a young group of wrestlers into the state tournament.

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    Connor Vanderweyst/Columbia Basin Herald 132-pounder Rodrigo Ozuna enters Mat Classic as a No. 2 seed.

WARDEN — Robert Arredondo marches to beat of a different drummer and the Cougar senior will have a chance to bang on it one more time when he leads a young group to Mat Classic XXIX at the Tacoma Dome on Friday and Saturday.

The Cougars finished third at the regional tournament and will send a strong, but youthful contingent to the next level.

“Robert’s an awesome kid. He definitely has a different drummer, but no other sport like wrestling embraces a kid like that,” said Warden coach Brent Cox, who will take seven and four alternates to Tacoma. “He’s our only senior. He’s grown a lot this year. He’s had to be a captain, in a leadership role and he’s ready to wrestle his last tournament with authority.”

The end-game is to continue a streak of top 10 finishes that dates back to 1998, Cox said. The Cougars will take regional champions Anthony Martinez (113), Tyrone Mendez (170) and Arredondo (182).

They also have regional runners-up Rodrigo Ozuna (132), Martin Dominguez (220) as well as Elijah Gonzalez (160) and Bryce Martinez (126), who were third at the regional level.

“They’ve all seen the dome before, with exception of Martin, who missed last year with an injury,” said Cox, whose team won a 1B/2B state title the previous two years. “They’ve been able to see the dome. For some, it can be very overwhelming, but it also puts a little spark in them for the following year. This group has all been there before, so they should be ready to go on wrestling’s biggest stage.”

The Cougars won the South Central Athletic Conference regular season title, but Cox believes they are a stronger tournament team.

“This is a group that’s worked very hard. If these guys go over and wrestle well, we can do great things,” Cox said. “We don’t have numbers, but we have quality. We’re definitely a tournament team, which is why taking the league title was such a great thing because we’re not a great dual meet team because we give up three spots in the lineup each week.

“I told the guys at the beginning of the season that we were going to be a great tournament team, and that’s exactly what the state tournament is — a tournament. So the benefit is on our side.”

Deer Park is the defending 1A state champions, but Colville gave them a run for the championship last season. The Cougars have a strong lineup in a wide open tournament.

“We have great first-round brackets,” the Cougar coach said. “To tell you the truth, I think every one of my guys can win that first-round match. Once we get into the quarterfinals and semifinals, anything can happen.”

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