Ashton Dowell said it far exceeded any pre-match hype song he could have listened to. Moments after the Adna High School junior stepped onto the mat for his 170-pound Class B state championship match, the officials at Mat Classic XXX were announcing over the PA system at the Tacoma Dome the top finishers in the 152-pound classification.
One name stood out far more than the rest – his older brother Braxton, who placed third in his weight division to close out his high school career.
“Hearing the success of my teammates is what drives me,” Ashton Dowell said. “Before my finals match I got to see a few of their (matches) and I could never listen to any song that would get me more pumped up than that.”
Highly motivated, Ashton Dowell made history at this year’s state tournament after defeating Darrington’s Gage Burtenshaw, 4-3, to become the Pirates’ first ever state wrestling champion.
Three times before, Adna advanced wrestlers to a state finals match. Luke Moerke was the first, accomplishing the feat at 178 pounds in 1998. Braxton Dowell (145 pounds) and Matthew Slape (152) became the second and third Pirates to do so last year.
All three had to settle for second.
Ashton Dowell reversed that trend, racing out to a quick lead before turning away Burtenshaw, a state champion himself after claiming the 160-pound state title last year.
“My goal in the match is always to physically dominate. People see me and they think I’m a lot smaller than 170,” said Ashton Dowell, who placed third at 160 in 2017. “I like to show people that they are wrong and I can do things they don’t expect.”
The Pirates placed five wrestlers, equaling the program’s benchmark set last year as they finished tied for third overall in the team standings – a best for the program.
Tonasket ran away with the Class B team title, collecting 286.5 points. Reardan was second with 167.5, while Adna and Ilwaco both finished with 89.5.
“We’re really going to miss the seniors we have now. This year, bringing in the program’s first regional championship and tying for third (at state), has just been amazing,” Ashton Dowell said. “Last year we finished sixth as a team. That was the first time we ever placed. We’re just going to add to it.
The Pirates also received a fourth from sophomore Lucas Ashely (145), a fifth from senior Kameron Perry and a sixth at 160 pounds from junior Matthew Slape, who was also involved in some program history as he became the first Adna wrestler to place three times at state.
Adna also saw its first ever state placer in the girls’ tournament after junior Cheyeann Meyer took home sixth in the 125-pound division.
In the 3A classification, Centralia had three wrestlers place and W.F. West saw two wrestlers medal, highlighted by senior Roehre Cunningham’s third-place finish at 106 pounds after putting together one of the more impressive runs at the tournament
Cunningham lost his opening round match against Ephrata junior Sammy Flores, 6-4, and surprisingly found himself in the consolation bracket where he needed to win three straight loser-out matches to even position himself to pick up a placing.
He accomplished just that by defeating Lindbergh’s Chance Edwards (12-0), Olympic’s Angelo Pangelinan (7-2) and Renton’s John Pham (10-1) to set up a rematch against Flores
Cunningham reversed the score in the second meeting, winning 6-4, before pinning Selah’s Andy Pimentel (4:01) to become the 10th Bearcat to finish among the top three at state over the last four seasons.
Levi Walters would later give W.F. West its second state placer by finishing sixth at 120. With Cunningham and Walters both taking home some hardware it marked the remarkable 15th consecutive year the Bearcats had multiple state placers.
Centralia received fourth-place finishes from Mykka McAllister (132) and Izz Almotes (220) and a sixth place from Tristen Dickey (170), giving the Tigers their most state placers in a single season since 2013.
McAllister ended his high school career by adding his name to a select list of Centralia athletes, becoming just the fifth wrestler in program history to place three times at state. The senior joins Joe Amell (1976-78), Jay Brown (1978-80), Kellen Pelzel (2011-13) and Kyzer Bailey (2012-14) as the only Tigers with three state medals.
McAllister advanced to the semifinals before losing to Toppenish’s Alexei Rubio. He rebounded from the loss to knock off Orting’s Hunter Behnke to secure his place in the match for third and fourth place.
Seniors Dickey and Almotes also made trips to the semifinals. Dickey lost to eventual champion Kiran Srikanth of Pullman and Almosts dropped a 9-4 contest to runner-up Evan Barger of Orting. It was the first state placings for both wrestlers.