A talented trio of Redmond High wrestlers and one alternate will be making the trek to the Tacoma Dome this Friday and Saturday for Mat Classic XXIII — the largest high-school wrestling tournament in the nation — with the hopes of bringing back some state hardware.
Headlining the group is senior Catherine Kelly, who has already made history in the program.
Not only is she the first and only female wrestler to ever wear a Mustangs’ uniform, she is also the only three-time state qualifier for Redmond since head coach Paul Mullen took over the program 19 years ago.
Mullen said that while nothing is a guarantee, he likes Kelly’s chances.
“If she wrestles well, and the way she has been wrestling lately, I’ll let her wrestle anybody,” Mullen said.
Kelly, who wrestles against boys during dual meets, has been tearing up opponents in the girls’ division this postseason. Since the tail end of the regular season, she’s 15-0 against girls and has won two open tournaments as well as sub-regionals and regionals.
“She’s really been focused on her technique,” Mullen noted. “She was really struggling to make the weight (at 112). When she’s happier, she wrestles better, so we took her to a couple girls’ tournaments at 119 and she was dominating.”
Kelly said that after placing fourth last year at state, she came back motivated to make it at least into the title match at the Mat Classic, and so far, her hard work as been paying off.
“Just lifting more weights and being more motivated this year to get a state championship,” explained Kelly on her success this season compared to last. “I’m really excited (about state). It could go either way, but I’m motivated to get in the finals at least. I’ll have to be in the ‘zone,’ wrestling perfectly.”
Redmond senior Joe Glass, wrestling at 189, fought his way back from heartbreak last season when he placed fifth at the regional tournament, narrowly missing out on state.
Glass won his division at Kingco and again shined at regionals, winning two matches to secure his state berth before falling to Colten Williams of Emerald Ridge in the finals.
“This year there’s just a little more pressure from the coaches and my teammates just because it’s senior year and now, it’s all or nothing,” said Glass, adding that last year’s failure has given him extra inspiration. “Last year was just, it bugged me that I couldn’t go to state. This year, it’s just redemption.”
Mullen praised Glass’ improvement, and believes he is ready to go this weekend.
“He looks good, he’s been wrestling solid, though he had a little setback in the regional finals,” Mullen said. “He’s wrestled well all year… we’re going to go and see what kind of impact we make.”
And even with the supreme talent level at the Mat Classic, the tough-as-nails senior is coming in with a nothing-to-lose attitude.
“To win it,” Glass said of his state goals. “If I can’t win it, then I’d love to place, I know I can place.”
The Mustangs’ final state qualifier, junior Simeon Simov, may be a surprise to some, but the 171-pound newcomer — who didn’t even qualify for regionals last season — earned his Mat Classic berth this winter, according to Mullen.
“He’s improved a lot,” Mullen said. “He’s made the finals of a number of tournaments… he’s gotten much better. He’s wrestling smarter on his feet, and he has a very uncanny natural sense of balance.”
Simov took the hard road to state, dropping into the consolation bracket at the regional tournament and then losing a rematch of the Kingco finals against Inglemoor’s Ben Grabowski, 8-1, setting up a winner-to-state, loser-out battle with Puyallup’s Jeremy Misailegalu for the fifth and final spot.
Simov responded under pressure and prevailed, 8-5.
“Going into that match, we had scouting information because he was beaten before by Grabowski, who was the finalist,” Simov said on the pivotal bout. “He ended up getting tired really fast. He was a good athlete but didn’t have much experience.”
Being the Mustangs’ only state qualifier who will return next year, Simov will enjoy his time in the Dome and gain valuable experience for next year, when he hopes to return.
“It’s going to be a fantastic trip because it’s a much higher level of wrestling there,” Simov said. “The competition will be tough and I look forward to seeing what that’s like.”
Redmond junior Brandon Long placed sixth at regionals to earn the alternate spot at 135. Long will get to wrestle if any of the higher seeds scratch before the first round of competition on Friday.
At the end of the day, Mullen, knowing the nature of the beast at the Mat Classic, is simply hoping his wrestlers will advance to Saturday competition.
“Make the second day. That’s always the goal… to have multiple placers,” he said on his hopes for the Mustangs. “We want to win as many as we can, but we’re looking to wrestle well and see where we measure up to the competition.”
The Mat Classic gets underway at the Tacoma Dome this Friday at 10 a.m.