At the outset of the 2008-09 wrestling season, Columbia High coaches set a team goal of qualifying at least three Bruins for the state Class 1A tournament in the Tacoma Dome.
CHS seniors Kevin Kreps and Seth Bell each had individual goals of making it to state and placing in the top eight on the final day of competition.
The team did not fully realize its goal, but Kreps and Bell met theirs last weekend, advancing through Friday's opening rounds to finish fourth and fifth in their respective weight classes on Saturday during the second day of Mat Classic XXI competition.
Kreps, the first Bruin to compete in two state tournaments (he wrestled at state last year at 140 pounds), concluded his second-straight state 1A meet and third season of high school wrestling with an 8-1 loss to Chelan senior Jose Garcia in Saturday's third-place match for 145 pounders. He finished with a 3-2 overall record
Bell, who made his state debut in his third prep season, wrestled six matches and won four. His last victory, by a 10-6 major decision, came in a rematch with his semifinal opponent, Freeman senior Cody Gunn.
Gunn edged Bell, 3-2, in the semifinals on Friday and led their consolation match for fifth place, 6-5, after executing a reversal with under a minute to go in the third two-minute period.
Bell countered, however, with a reversal of his own to take a 7-6 lead, then finished off Gunn by putting him in jeopardy of being pinned. The near fall earned Bell three points and a four-point victory.
Bruins Coach Stoner Bell said he was "really proud of the way Seth and Kevin wrestled. Even when they got behind, they didn't quit. They kept wrestling right through to the final whistle in every match and, when that happens, good things sometimes happen."
Both wrestlers enjoyed a share of good fortune during the tournament.
In his quarterfinal match against Lake Roosevelt senior Kasey Green on Friday, Kreps needed a late escape at the end of the third period to tie the score, then won it, 5-3, with a quick takedown of Green in overtime.
In his consolation semifinal on Saturday against junior Zac Reisenauer of Columbia (Burbank), Kreps executed a reversal with about 10 seconds remaining to claim a 4-2 decision.
Bell had his own close call on opening day. He trailed Royal junior Jake Thomas, 11-2, after two periods, but made it 11-4 in the third with a reversal that subsequently led to Bell's victory by fall at the 4:45 mark.
In his quarterfinal bout with Gunn, Bell gave up a takedown but tied the score at 2-2 with a reversal in the first period. Gunn reclaimed the lead in the second, though, when the referee awarded him a penalty point. The score remained unchanged in the third period as neither wrestler could gain an advantage.
Bell, who posted a 29-7 record (with several wins against state-ranked opponents) in his first season at 189 pounds, rebounded from the setback to dominate Meridian sophomore Corey Compton (9-1) and Warden senior Isaac DeLeon (9-2), and put himself in position for a top-eight finish.
"The fact Seth and Kevin placed at state this year is a testimony to the fact that, if a wrestler has heart and commitment, the rest will follow," Coach Bell said. "Their attitudes and work ethics stand as an example to future wrestlers: All things are possible for those who are willing to set a goal and work toward that goal. As individuals, wrestlers are only limited by their own attitudes. As more individual wrestlers grasp this truth, the team will also benefit."