EPHRATA — Ephrata head coach P.J. Anderson’s eyes lit up when Efrain Bedolla walked into his wrestling room for the first time.
The 6-foot-5 junior heavyweight was low on experience, but high on raw ability.
Three months later, Bedolla reached the regional finals and is a No. 2 seed entering Mat Class XXIX.
“Every wrestling coach wants a 6’5” heavyweight to walk in there room and we got one,” Anderson said. “I just wish he was a freshman, but I’ll take what I can get.”
Bedolla’s Cinderella run to the state tournament began with a first-round upset of sixth-ranked Chemi Cantu of Othello 8-3. Next, Bedolla erased a 6-0 deficit in the third round and pinned East Valley’s Alan Castillo to advance to the regional final.
Bedolla’s run ended at the hands of No. 1 Jonathan Cuevas of Toppenish. Cuevas pinned his way to the championship and will be a state title favorite.
“My coach was telling me if I gave him 100 percent, he’s going to show me how to get to state,” Bedolla said. “I’m going. That’s what matters.”
Bedolla will be joined at the Tacoma Dome by teammates Sammy Flores (106), Cole Spencer (170) and Drew Anderson (182). Mac Laird (182) took fifth place at regionals and will be a state alternate.
“You always want more, but we had a good weekend,” P.J. Anderson said. “I was thinking we had a couple that had a shot then we had some other guys that would have to upset some kids to go, so our kids wrestled well this weekend. I was pleased.”
Flores overcame a 9-4 defeat in the semifinals to eventual champion Kyler Romero of Toppenish to win his next two matches to finish in third place. Flores is currently ranked No. 4 at 106 pounds, according to Washington Wrestling Report.
Spencer and Drew Anderson also lost in the semifinals, rallying to win their next match and place fourth.
“We knew they were going to have their work cut out for them to get through this weekend and they all came here ready to work and ready to bounce back if things didn’t go their way,” P.J. Anderson said. “They did what they had to do. I was pleased with the way they handled the weekend.”
A first-year wrestler and first-year state qualifier, Bedolla was excited by the opportunity to share his experience with teammates.
“They’ve always been there showing me how to get better, what to do, how to just get far,” he said.