OTHELLO — This time of year, the Othello wrestling tradition comes down off the walls and into the room to help prepare the next wave of Huskies on their way to the Mat Classic.
The Huskies’ legends return.
Rudy Ochoa Sr., who was part of the Othello back-to-back state wrestling teams in 1968-69 and won the 106-pound state championship (1968), is already on staff. So is Hall of Fame coach Wayne Schutte. But guys like Freddie Flores, a two-time state champion (2005-06), Philip Ontiveros, who won a state championship in 2006, the year current coach Rudy Ochoa II was a state runner-up, and state champion TJ Martinez (2017) have popped in to give the guys some inspiration.
“It means a lot to have the former guys come back. I think the boys get a better understanding of the tradition when these guys come back,” Ochoa II said. “It’s a tough sport and they know how tough it is and what it takes. They’ve put themselves through the work it takes to get there and make a difference when it counts. I think the guys understand that and give it a little something extra.”
Othello heads into the Region 4 tournament with 10 qualifiers from the District 5-6 meet where they finished second behind Toppenish, which is the top-ranked team in the state, according to Washington Wrestling Report. Ten is a good number and if they move on through the regional level with all 10, Ochoa II would be happy. That’s the plan. Just getting there isn’t even in the Othello dialogue. They come to play and the goal is to march into the Tacoma Dome with regional champions. It’s all hands on deck.
“We thought qualifying 10 (for regionals) was realistic. I think we’re strong all the way through our lineup,” Ochoa II said. “I feel good right now. We finished second in the CWAC behind Toppenish. We finished second behind them in the tournament, and we’re getting closer.
“During the year, we’ve looked for the toughest competition we could find to prepare us for this. We’re healthy, we’re hungry and we’re ready to go.”
Huskies junior Isaiah Perez pinned Terrell Underwood of Toppenish at 1:56 to win the district championship. It was a milestone of sorts being his 100th career victory and his 91st by fall. He goes into the Region 4 tournament as the defending 2A state champion and No. 1 ranked heavyweight in the state in any class. He might not be in a class of his own, but where he’s at it doesn’t take long to call roll.
“He’s been pretty dedicated this year and to win his 100th match as a junior is amazing,” Ochoa II said.
The Huskies also go into the regional tournament with district champions Jovani Espindola (138) and Bernie Garza Jr. (182).
It’s hard to say how much they could have closed the gap on No. 1-ranked Toppenish, which is nationally ranked and finished fifth in the 77-team Zinkin Classic in Clovis, Calif., in December. But the Huskies put seven in the finals and crowned three champions, and had a stretch there were Roberto Ramirez (126), Jaxon Rocha (132), Arturo Solorio (138) and Nathan Garza (152) all finished as the district runners-up.
The top four teams in the 2A state rankings include two from the West and two from the East in No. 1 Toppenish, No. 2. White River. No. 3. Orting and No. 4. Othello. The Huskies still have a week to go to the Mat Classic XXXI, but they’ll need as much ammunition as the gun will fire and this weekend at Ellensburg is critical to their chances in making a run at the Tacoma Dome.
“Our goal every year is the top of the podium at the Mat Classic. Our region is so tough and we’re closing the gap with Toppenish,” Ochoa II said. “White River and Orting are the defending state champs and the runner-up, so they’ll be tough. Toppenish is nationally ranked, but I like our chances and hopefully we can get all 10 qualified and see what happens.”
Region 4 action begins at 10 a.m. on Saturday at Ellensburg High School.
District 5-6 qualifiers
106: Horacio Godinez (T). 2 Joel Godina (T). 3. Josiah Barrera (O) 4, Jaiden Leon (EV).
113: Sammy Flores (Eph) 2. Reyden Huizar (P). 3, Brayan Cruz (T). 4. Evan Anderson (S).
120: Jesus Rodriguez (W). 2. Clay Johns (Eph). 3, Gonzalo Aleman (T); 4, Christian Davis (Ell).
126: Haiden Drury (T). 2. Roberto Ramirez (O). 3. Jesse Salinas (S). 4. Jesus Sanchez (G);
132: Kyler Romero (T) 2. Jaxon Rocha (O). 3. Juan Escamilla (T). 4, Taylor Lakey (P).
138: Jovani Espindola (O). 2. Arturo Solorio (O). 3. Angel Morales (G). 4. Isaac John (T).
145: Alexei Rubio (T). 2. Salvador Chavarin (Q). 3. Dylan Steadman (S). 4. Kade Merrick (P).
152: Kord Tuttle (P). 2. Nathan Garza (O). 3. Enrique Olivas (W). 4. Nathan Ramirez (Q)
160: Keyano Zamarripa (T). 2. Lorenzo Gonzalez (Ell). 3. Jackson Yates (S). 4. Easton Roylance (O)
170: Andres Aguilera (T). 2. Logan Candanoza (P). 3. Brandon Mellergaard (Ell). 4. Isaias Ramirez (T).
182: Bernie Garza (O). 2. Henry Rinehart (Ell). 3. Alan Maceda (Eph). 4. Hunter Harrington (Q).
195: Carson Northwind (T). 2. Mac Laird (Eph). 3. Jose Avila (Q). 4. Manmohit Singh (S)
220: Amadeo Flores Pimentel (S). 2. Ruben Vargas (Q). 3. Elijah Roylance (O) 4. Tyge Taylor (Ell).
285: Isaiah Perez (O). 2. Terrell Underwood (T). 3. Elias Guevara (Eph). 4. Eduardo Mendez (W)