Liberty wrestler finishes sixth at Mat Classic

March 2, 2012

By Sebastian Moraga

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When the last chapter closed on the 2012 Mat Classic, all it said about Hamilton Noel’s performance was that the Liberty High School senior finished sixth in the 160-pound division at the Class 3A Tournament.

Not a word about his heart, of which he displayed plenty in the Tacoma Dome. Not a comma about his tears, of which there were a few. Not a period about how he stepped on the mat weakened by an unspecified ailment that made him look almost nothing like the champion that dominated at regionals.

At the end, the fact that Mercer Island’s Blake Johnson, the wrestler who won the 160-pound state title was the same one Noel defeated at the regional finals seven days earlier, seemed to do nothing but add insult to an already injured warrior.

In 2010, then-145-pounder Noel lost to Olympic High School’s Brandon Yeik, 13-7, in the state finals.

In 2011, 152-pounder Noel lost to Enumclaw’s Josh Musick, 6-2, in the state finals.

The win against Johnson was the fourth in five tries for Noel. Noel stepped onto the mat for the regional finals having won two of their three encounters this season.

“We know each other very well,” Noel said.

Noel was one of three wrestlers the Liberty squad took to state this year. Luke Oman finished fifth at 220 pounds and Conner Small finished fifth at 138 pounds. They both went as alternates.

In the first round of the Mat Classic, Noel defeated Enumclaw’s Ryan Anderson, 9-5. In the second round, Decatur’s Nick Karis stunned onlookers by beating Noel, 11-4.

At that point, fans were already talking about how Noel did not look like himself. To the senior’s credit, he strung together two more wins, against Pasco’s Lonnie Hurley (9-6) and Sunnyside’s Sam Romero. (9-5).

Then, Bonney Lake’s Chili Sabin stopped Noel with a pin late in the third round.

Despite the devastating pin, which knocked Noel out of contention for third place, Noel turned the fifth-place match into a battle of wills.

Late in the match, he managed to turn a 3-1 deficit with 76 seconds left into a 3-3 tie on a takedown. The effort took the last reserve of gas from Noel’s tank, who yielded two more points and lost 5-3.

Then the tears, the hugs from the coaches and an afternoon of misty-eyed waiting until the awards ceremonies, where Noel would receive his sixth-place prize and say goodbye to high school wrestling.

The brackets for the Mat Classic 2012 are full, and at 160 pounds, Noel’s name stands next to a “6.” Those who watched him this weekend know no number high enough exists for competitors who wrestle two opponents at once.

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