SPOKANE VALLEY — It’s Othello tradition to send its wrestlers off to the Mat Classic with a big to-do outside of PJ Taggares Gym every year. There is a sense of community pride, tradition and a year ago a couple of hundred friends and family sent the most recent gladiators off in style with signs and baskets.
Grade school kids moved throughout the crowd, hoping to get close to the next generation of Huskies wrestlers, both boys and girls.
There in the back, with his arm in a sling, and his head held high, was a young man there to support his mates going off to battle. He wasn’t going to get on the bus, don the red and black, or hear the ring announcer’s cry at the Tacoma Dome. Yet he stood there, head high, heart breaking, sending his off guys.
As a junior, Chris Melo’s season came crashing to a halt when he was illegally body slammed at the Dream Duals and a separated shoulder kept him from wrestling at the WIAA 2A Region 4 tournament and the Mat Classic.
There are a lot of four-letter words to describe situation, but only one the Huskies 106-pounder chose apply in his senior season comeback was — work.
Melo systematically worked his way through the bracket at the 2A Region 4 tournament on Saturday afternoon at East Valley High School to take his place on the top shelf on the podium, Melo worked an 8-5 decision over Uriel Garcia of Wapato in the 106 championship and now will take one more shot at the top spot at the Mat Classic XXX.
“I’m excited right now because of the opportunity to get back to state,” said Melo, who placed at the Tri-State tournament earlier in the year. “It’s been a lot of work to get to this point. I got back into the room the week after I was done with physical therapy. I went to a few camps during the summer. I have to keep pushing, one more tournament, it’s my last time.”
He didn’t just go to any camp this past summer to get ready. Melo went to the JRob Intensive & Technique Camp.
“He went to the JRob Camp to get back. He’s a coach’s dream because of this work ethic and he’s an all-around great kid,” Othello coach Rudy Ochoa II said. “He’s just one of those that’s never stops, always moving. He’s going to have success because of how hard he works and how much time he puts in. He’s always asking for more work and I’m happy to see him rewarded with success.”
Huskies’ Isaiah Perez took his game to the next level last year at the Region 4 tournament, winning a championship at 220. This year, same result, different weight class. The Huskies heavyweight moved through the bracket with three consecutive pins, including Dietrik Mueller, of Pullman in the championship.
“Isaiah did USA wrestling in the summer and has been putting in the work. He does freestyle during the fall,” said Ochoa II, whose team qualified six wrestlers and two alternates for the Mat Classic. “He’s one of those guys that wants to come in in the summer and work out. Isaiah and Chris, even though they’ve had a lot of success this year, they’re always wanting to improve and they’re always asking questions and trying new things. That’s why their success carries over into more than sport.”
Under the championship format, it was Perez in the 285-pound championship match on one mat and Melo on the adjoining mat in the 106-pound title bout. The Huskies crowned the first two Region 4 champions of the night.
Ephrata was quick to crown its own Region 4 champion one match later when Clay Johns won the 113-pound championship with a 4-1 decision over Jacob Torres of Prosser.
“To have a champion really does mean something. It’s a long road in all these weights,” said Tigers coach PJ Anderson, who qualified four. “To put in a day like this, as long as it is, and manage yourself. There’s a lot of factors that go beyond just your ability to wrestle that allow you be successful.
“Clay did a good job of opening things up in the final. It was actually a good match for him to have. Now we can clean some of those little things up before we’re actually in the Dome.”
Toppenish (195.5) won the 2A Region 4 team championship by 60 points, crowning four champions. Othello (117.5) was fourth, Ephrata (77) placed seventh and Quincy (44) finished 12th.
The Jacks will have two wrestlers continuing on to the state competition next week at the Matt Classic.
Team scores: 1. Toppenish, 195.5. 2, East Valley (Spokane) 136. 3, Wapato 120.5. 4, Othello, 117.5. 5, Selah 87. 6, Cheney 83. 7. Ephrata, 77. 8. West Valley 88. 9. Ellensburg 71. 10. Pullman, 55.5. 11. Prosser, 50. 12, Quincy, 44. 13. Clarkston, 36. 14. East Valley (Yakima), 13.
2A State qualifiers
106 - 1. Chris Melo, Othello. 2. Uriel Garcia, Wapato. 3. Andy Pimentel, Selah. 4. Sammy Flores, Ephrata
113 - 1. Clay Johns, Ephrata. 2. Jacob Torres, Prosser. 3. Stephen Aguilar, Wapato. 4. Gonzalo Aleman, Toppenish
120 - 1. Haiden Drury, Toppenish. 2. Jesus Rodriguez, Wapato. 3. Avery Sundheim, East Valley (S). 4. Brennon McDermott, East Valley (S)
126 - 1. Kyler Romero, Toppenish. 2. Daniel Callahan, Selah. 3. Sergy Salas, Wapato. 4. Dylan Straley, Cheney 132 - 1. Alexei Rubio, Toppenish. 2. Isaac John, Toppenish. 3. Cesar Brizuela, Wapato. 4. Jacob Kessinger, East Valley 138 - 1. Zack Nguyen, Cheney. 2. Zachary Bowsky, East Valley (S). 3. Isaac Guillen, Wapato. 4. Gabe Fabian, Selah 145 - 1. Jake Freeman, Clarkston. 2. Alex Vaca, Wapato. 3. Isaiah Ervin, East Valley (S). 4. Juan Martinez, Othello 152 - 1. Gaje Caro, West Valley. 2. Keyano Zamarripa, Toppenish. 3. Anthony Aguilera, Cheney. 4. Easton Roylance, Othello 160 - 1. Andres Aguilera, Toppenish. 2. Logan Candanoza, Prosser. 3. Bernie Garza, Jr., Othello. 4. Lorenzo Gonzalez, Ellensburg 170 - 1. Kiran Srikanth, Pullman. 2. Carson Northwind, Toppenish. 3. Victor Tafoya, Quincy. 4. Alan Coumbs, Cheney 182 - 1. Boedy Taylor, Cheney. 2. Cade Stevenson, Ellensburg. 3. Scott Bray, West Valley. 4. Eduardo Rojas, Toppenish 195 - 1. Winston Scott, East Valley (S). 2. Salvador Osorio, Toppenish. 3. Mac Laird, Ephrata. 4. DJ Guzman, Othello 220 - 1. Logan Rese, West Valley. 2. Amadeo Pimentel, Sela. 3. Ruben Vargas, Quincy. 4. Landon Hofstee, East Valley 285 - 1. Isaiah Perez, Othello. 2. Dietrik Mueller, Pullman. 3. Efrain Bedolla, Ephrata. 4. Jacob Halvorsen, East Valley (S)