YAKIMA — Hunter Cruz has the aura of a defending state champion, sure.
But what makes Cruz so difficult on the mat is his patience, his ability to play the long game. His opponent won’t open up and take a shot? Fine. Cruz will bide his time and wait for the slightest mistake.
Cruz showcased his tact in a pair of 5-1 victories over third-ranked Davonn Keyes and second-ranked Nathan Marin, both of regional champion South Kitsap.
“Those guys know me and if you look back at the matches neither one of them took a shot,” he said. “Neither one of them tried to attack me.”
It was Cruz on the offensive.
In the semifinals, Cruz nursed a 2-0 lead over Keyes through two rounds, scored one escape point 10 seconds into the third round and notched one more match-sealing take-down. The finals against Marin followed a similar script. Cruz led 3-0 after two rounds and added one more insurance take-down in the third.
“He wrestled with great presence, mat awareness and presence,” head coach Jaime Garza said. “He was able to get on some nice shots and finish them. It wasn’t a typical Hunter match were he goes out and pins the guy right away — that didn’t take place. He had to actually work and wrestle the full six minutes and that’s good for him.
“He hung in there and he wrestled well.”
Cruz and Payton Castro captured regional championships and Moses Lake qualified seven for Mat Classic XXX: Cruz, Castro, Beau Mauseth, Pablo Mejia, Bailey Sanchez, Jonathan Tanguma and Riley Burgess.
South Kitsap pulled away from Curtis to win the regional championship with 187.5 points. Moses Lake totaled 148 points and was third.
A region comprised of the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the state in addition to some unlucky match-ups and injuries kept some Chiefs out of the state tournament. Tanguma bested teammate Maximus Zamora 6-1 in the consolation semifinals. The same problem occurred at 113 pounds when Burgess had to beat teammate Hunter White 6-3 to qualify for state. Cruz Vasquez made it as a state alternate after beating teammate Christien Knopp 1-0 for fifth place.
All told, it will be difficult to contend for a team championship this weekend with seven wrestlers.
“I wish we could have had a few more kids in there,” Garza said. “I think if we could have pushed nine kids I would have been really pleased.”
Castro, the only other wrestler with Mat Classic experience outside of Cruz, won a hard-fought finals match over Curtis’ Xavier Whitson 6-4. Whitson held a 3-2 lead after two rounds and started the third in the top position. Whitson was able to fling Castro around and drive him out of bounds for about a minute. Then, on a reset, Castro sprung to his feet quickly, felt some separation and spun around to bull rush Whitson onto the mat for a two-point reversal and two back points.
“I felt like I was able to get my hips out a little freer and able to move,” Castro said. “I thought if I could get up, stand up real quick and without him getting on my ankle I would be able to turn in real quick and I just happened to be fast enough in that one time that I got around him and got the two.”
1. South Kitsap 187.5
2. Curtis 168
3. Moses Lake 148
4. Sunnyside 132
5. Sumner 84
Moses Lake finalists
160: Hunter Cruz (ML) d. Nathan Marin (SK), 5-1
182: Ketner Fields (C) p. Beau Mauseth (ML), 2:48
195: Payton Castro (ML) d. Xavier Whitson (C), 6-4
285: Jector Ramirez (SS) p. Pablo Mejia (ML), 5:10
Moses Lake placers
106: Jonathan Tanguma, third; Maximus Zamora, sixth; 113: Riley Burgess, fourth; Hunter White, sixth; 120: Xzavier Villarreal, sixth; 145: Cruz Vasquez, fifth; Christien Knopp, sixth; 160: Hunter Cruz, first; 182: Beau Mauseth, second; 195: Payton Castro, first; Bailey Sanchez, fourth; 285: Pablo Mejia, second; Sebastian Rodriguez, sixth
1. Castle Rock 250.5
2. Connell 194.5
3. Royal 191
4. Warden 182.5
5. Columbia 90.5
12. Wahluke 6
Royal state qualifiers
113: Dominic Martinez, first; 120: Yahir Morales, third; 132: Eduardo Rodriguez, first; 138: Kevin Pastor, second; Benjamin Bustos, fourth; 145: Daniel Bonilla, second; 152: Lorenzo Myrick, first; 160: Jose Galindo, third; 285: Ryder Ellis, second
Warden state qualifiers
106: Tony Martinez, second; Roly Martinez, fourth; 126: Edgar Hernandez third; 132: Anthony Martinez, second; 138: Rodrigo Ozuna, first; 145: Holden Haworth, third; 170: Elijah Gonsalez, first; 182: Tyrone Mendez, second; 220: Martin Dominguez, first
1. Reardan 277
2. Colfax 145
3. Mary Walker 103
4. Davenport 80.5
5. Northwest Christian 76
12. Lind-Ritzville/Sprague 30.5
13. Almira/Coulee-Hartline 26
LRS state qualifiers
113: Tristan Regan, fourth; 220: Aarron Phelps, fourth
ACH state qualifiers
138: Wyatt Zielinski, fourth