Big Bend wrestling could be big success

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Rodney Harwood

Mark Poth and the Big Bend Community College powers that be could not have made a better decision than to add men’s and women’s wrestling to the athletic programs.

I was in Wyoming when the Wyoming Association of Community College Trustees opted to add men’s and women’s soccer. It made no sense at all to let every kid looking for a chance to play college soccer to leave the state, so why not build the academic base and keep them home?

Big Bend’s decision parallels that decision with one exception. Where Wyoming soccer wasn’t strong enough to go it alone, the Columbia Basin wrestlers are good and Big Bend can build a National Collegiate Wrestling Association powerhouse with homegrown talent.

Let’s face it, if you’re going to be competitive in other sports, coaching staffs have to reach outside the limits of the local talent. There’s just not enough local basketball or baseball to go around. You have to recruit the coast, the Midwest, back east where the talent pools run deep as the Columbia River.

But the Basin wrestling talent is incredible and the fan base is already in place. Greatness can start right here at home, and build into something special with the addition of outside talent. Big Bend’s decision to resurrect its wrestling program for the 2018-19 school year opens the door to not only an athletic program that can compete on the national stage, but keeps the locals from streaming out-of-state to wrestle.

Two-time Washington 4A state champion and two-time Tri-State champion Hunter Cruz is off to bigger and better things at the NCAA Division I level and rightly so. But there’s a ton of talent with an opportunity to take their game to a new level. I don’t know their future plans, but guys like Beau Mauseth, Daiman Vasquez, Christien Knopp, Payton Castro and Pablo Mejia have a place to go if they want to continue with their education and their game.

There’s plenty of the young turks coming, guys like Jonathan Tanguma, Maximus Zamora, Cruz Vasquez. Shoot, I could just go down the entire Moses Lake roster for the talent to make a difference. Imagine what kind of team the Vikings would have if they brought in some of the Lake Stevens guys. It’d be a bloodbath just getting out of the room.

But it’s not like all the Columbia Basin wrestling talent comes out of Moses Lake. The Othello-Moses Lake dual the past couple of years has gone down to the last man standing. The Huskies got game. I think guys like Chris Melo, DJ Guzman, Reese Jones and TJ Martinez could make some noise at the next level. The Huskies’ tradition is rich in talent, and even though Jones and Martinez are 2017 graduates, Big Bend wrestling changes things if they still have the desire to step it up to the next level.

Ephrata has a bunch of young talent on the way in Sammy Flores, Clay Johns, along with graduating senior Efrain Bedolla. Victor Tafoya was a 2A state qualifier for Quincy last season and has a lot of potential.

Warden wrestling tradition is sound and has the potential to increase the community college talent pool with Martin Dominguez or Anthony Martinez. They also have a bunch of young guys on the way in Rodrigo Ozuna and Elijah Gonsalez. Royal’s Eduardo Rodriguez, Kevin Pastor, Daniel Bonilla, and Dominic Martinez have the talent to contribute right away.

Big Bend’s going the throw them in the deep end for the first time since the 1994-95 season, but I really do feel they can hold their own with local talent. The Vikings could kick the door down as a first-year program returning to the time when Jon Lane and Ron Seibel wrestled on the same Vikings team under the direction of Dr. Bob Mason. Seibel and Lane won national championships, as well as Washington Athletic Conference championships during their time at Big Bend.

Let’s not forget that the local women’s talent pool runs deep as the day is long. Melanie Flores out of Moses Lake is a 4A state placer and wrestles with Chiefs pride. Ephrata incoming senior Mya Spencer was the Central Washington Girls Wrestling Association wrestler of the year last year as a junior. She’s a dominating wrestler that wrestled for a 2A state championship last year. Quincy’s Cynthia Diaz has the right stuff to wrestle collegiately.

The Othello and Warden girls have dominated the girls wrestling on this side of the Cascades for years. They have a couple of ready-made Vikings in Elizabeth Giles and Victoria Mendoza, plus a young bunch coming in Emily Mendez, Jackie Peguero, Leslie Rodriguez and Kaitlyn Goodman.

The Cougars have been to top of the girls wrestling mountain and their talent pool is deep as ever. Karely Garcia and Amanda Contreras have the talent to take it to the next level. Like the rest of the Basin, there’s young ones on the way, Aaliyah Escamilla, Monica Canales, Andrea Hernandez and DaNeil Jolley.

Poth is not ruling out wrestling in the National Junior College Athletic Association, which would allow them to wrestle for a national championship. But for the time being, the men will compete in the National Collegiate Wrestling Association (NCWA), while the women will compete in the Women’s Collegiate Wrestling Association.

Rodney Harwood is sports writer for the Columbia Basin Herald and can be reached at rharwood@columbiabasinherald.com

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