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Horn, Nichols win state wrestling championships

Five Raiders wrestle at state

 

Tony Nichols wrestles senior Christopher Jones of Colfax in the third round at state. Nichols won 8-4. - Brittany Cozza photo

In a grand finale for Lake Roosevelt's wrestling season, two Raiders took state championships, the first time in school history for two top wins at the Mat Classic in Tacoma in the same year.

Kaleb Horn took the title for the Raiders in the 138-pound bracket, and Tony Nichols claimed the top spot at 152. Both are juniors.

Nichols also pulled off the feat of being undefeated for the year, 35-0, winning Wrestler of the Year in the Central Washington 2B league in the process. This marks the first time a Raider wrestler has gone undefeated for the year.

"That is a great accomplishment," said Head Coach Steve Hood.

Horn claimed a state championship for the second year in a row. Horn is the third two-time champion in LR History, joining the ranks of Orrin Gross and Shane Innes. Horn also won the honor of academic state champion in his weight class, having had the best GPA with 3.05.

Wrestling in the Tacoma Dome on Feb. 15, Nichols willed his way to the top, defeating Dowell from Adna 2-1, Jones from Colfax 8-4, and Perryman from Reardan 3-2 to take the 152 title.

"Over 10 years of hard work finally paid off," Nichols said. "I kind of blacked out and couldn't tell what was going on." Nichols was joined in celebration by his parents, siblings, and other family in addition to his teammates.

"[Coach Hood] is pretty much the reason why I won state," Nichols added. "He's been there with me since I was 5 years old. ... He's a really good coach."

Horn, wrestling at 138, pinned Hamlin from Raymond in one minute, 17 seconds, pinned Lawhead from South Bend in 2:35, and defeated Dixon from Mary Walker 4-1 to become state champ for his second year in a row.

"Dixon is very strong, and a great wrestler," Hood noted. "Basically, Kaleb took it to him and overcame that strength. There were times when he would almost get scored on, but he would just counter his way out of it every time. It was a dominating win."

"It wasn't as emotional as the first time, but I was very excited," Horn said. "I thought in my head that all the hard work had paid off."

Robert Thomas, wrestling at 106, lost to Perryman from Reardan by pin, then pinned Cureton from Winlock in 13 seconds, the fastest pin at state this year. "He just double legged him straight to his back," Hood said. "That was pretty exciting." Thomas then defeated Jackson from Rainier 15-4, lost a close 8-7 against Perryman again, and then pinned Sedenius from Darrington in 2:43 to place fifth.

"A fifth-place medal as a freshman is pretty awesome," Hood said.

Sherwin Vargas, wrestling at 220, was making a big comeback against Moon from Kalama when Kalama was disqualified. Despite losing his other matches, Vargas placed sixth. "A great opportunity as a freshman to get there and see where he needs to be in the future," Hood said, hopeful that Vargas will place higher as he becomes an upperclassman.

Kaleb Horn wrestles senior Randy Dixon, from Mary Walker, in a match he won 4-1 to become LR's third two-time state champ. - Brittany Cozza photo

Connor Klingenberg, wrestling in the same weight class, lost both his matches and did not place.

"Connor got the opportunity to wrestle at the state tournament this year and will benefit greatly from that whole experience," Hood said.

Vargas and Thomas are only the sixth and seventh Raider freshmen to place at state since 1974.

As a team, LR earned 70 points, placing seventh in the team scores. Tonasket placed first with 286.5 points. Nine out of the 14 state champions were from the CWB league.

"They're very different personalities," Hood said about Nichols and Horn. "Their celebrations were very different. It's a pretty emotional time for them, their family, their friends and all the people that have been involved on the journey, coaches and teammates, and alumni. We had a good group of alumni that were coming in and helping them train. We rely heavily on that. It was a very good year."

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