Columbia High junior Kevin Kreps became just the fifth wrestler in the history of CHS's wrestling program to qualify for a state tournament.
He added his name to the school's record book last Saturday by placing fifth in the 140-pound weight class at the WIAA Westside Regional Wrestling Tournament in Castle Rock. (The top six wrestlers in each weight class earned state berths.)
Kreps defeated Rick Woodruff of Onalaska in the match for fifth place, 11-8, much to the delight of his coaches, parents, teammates and friends.
"The strong contingent of CHS parents and students were all very proud of Kevin's accomplishment," Bruins Coach Rick Polkinghorn said.
"But, as I told Kevin after he made it to state, `Now it's time to reevaluate our goals.' Kevin now needs to think about placing at state," he continued. "Getting there is a major accomplishment; but now that you're there, don't be complacent. Let's go win some matches and bring home a medal."
Only one CHS wrestler has ever made it to the medal round at the WIAA Mat Classic in the Tacoma Dome. That was Kenny Bucher, who placed eighth at 285 pounds in 2001, in his only state tournament appearance.
Kreps will open his first state tournament at 11:40 a.m. on Friday against junior Gage Schmidt of Chelan.
An opening-round victory would put Kreps into a 5:30 p.m. quarterfinal match on Friday against Warden junior Lupe Landeros or Orting senior Jeff Fetter Jr.; a loss would relegate him to the consolation bracket and a 5:40 pairing with either Landeros or Fetter.
At last weekend's regional tournament, Polkinghorn said Kreps wrestled the same way he has all season: "Very good on his feet gathering several takedowns over the two days and opportunistic on the mat, putting all of his opponents on their back at least once."
In his first regional match, Kreps scored a 7-2 decision over Nicolas Torres of Nooksack Valley to advance to a quarterfinal meeting with eventual runner-up Travis Petrovich of Forks.
"We had a scouting report on Petrovich that told us he wasn't very good on his feet but excellent on the mat, so our plan was to stay on our feet and beat him with takedowns," Polkinghorn noted.
The plan worked well in the first period as Kreps accumulated a 9-2 lead. But in the second, after a Kreps takedown, Petrovich scored on a reversal, then went to work breaking Kreps down. The Forks standout eventually pinned his CHS counterpart late in the period.
Kreps regrouped in the consolation bracket, however. In his first "wrestle back" action, he put Cory Casebar of Cascade Christian down for the count in the second period. Then, in the match that got him into the state tourney, Kreps needed a late reversal and a near fall to secure a 10-7 victory over Matt Johnson of Kalama, a wrestler he had faced--and beaten--twice before.
The breaks didn't go CHS junior Seth Bell's way in his third match of the regional meet. He lost a 16-12 decision in overtime to Jesse Brown of Stevenson, who got a controversial match-tying takedown at the end of regulation.
Bell led Brown by five points with 39 seconds remaining in their fourth pairing of the season and had him "on his back and pretty well tangled up" when Brown got a bloody nose, Polkinghorn recounted.
On the re-start, Brown got a quick reversal and caught Bell on his back to cut the lead to one. Then, with 15 seconds remaining, Brown let Bell free, then moved in for the tying takedown with no time showing on the clock.
"Such a bummer for Seth; he probably would have advanced to state had he won that match," Polkinghorn said. But, "Seth is a smart young man and I'm confident he will learn from this match. He'll be back next year and will be very tough to beat."