Cancer taps out

February 6, 2015

By Christina Corrales-Toy

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Liberty bests Hazen on night dedicated to more than wrestling

Derek Nichols, Hazen High School senior (top), wrestles Beamer High School's Malik Ford.

Derek Nichols, Hazen High School senior (top), wrestles Beamer High School’s Malik Ford.

When the Liberty and Hazen wrestling teams hit the mats Jan. 16, they were tackling more than their opponents.

They, along with Oak Harbor and Highline high school wrestling teams, did all that they could to tackle pancreatic cancer at the dual meet and fundraiser.

Hazen coach Rory Magana’s father Rodney, who died just eight months after he was diagnosed with stage-four pancreatic cancer in 2011, inspired the fundraiser now in its fifth year.

“The diagnosis is a tough one,” Magana said. “The two-year survival rates are very low, and the five-year survival rates are even lower. Pancreatic cancer is the most lethal cancer diagnosis that there is, but not a lot of people have heard about it.”

This year, the Liberty gymnasium played host to the annual meet/fundraiser. In addition to T-shirt sales, pancreatic cancer education and a silent auction, fans were treated to a night of competitive wrestling.

Liberty went 1-1 on the night, defeating Hazen in a close one, while losing to Highline. The Highlanders dropped both of their matches, falling to Oak Harbor after losing to the Patriots.

“The Hazen match was a barnburner,” Liberty coach Wright Noel said. “Liberty won even though we gave up 12 points in forfeits.”

Sean Surowiec, at 126 pounds, Juan Flores (152) and Conner Small (170) each had crucial pins for Liberty, leading the Patriots to the victory.

In the other matches, the Highlanders’ Nik Vargas won by technical fall over Patriot Cooper Murch (132); Hazen’s Derek Nichols won by decision over Liberty’s Ethan Le (138), 7-0; and Leo Palaganas, of Hazen, won by decision over the Patriots’ Alec Bluhm (145), 11-4.

“We won on the strength of our wrestlers refusing to get pinned or give up major points, and the wrestlers we counted on winning were able to pin,” Noel said. “It was a great team win.”

Against Highline, Liberty got pins from Jarmon Joseph (126), Romney Noel (182), Murch and Small.

Magana said that while the Highlanders “wrestled tough,” they struggled to cope with several holes in their lineup due to illness and injury.

Of all the Highlanders’ wrestlers, Magana said he was most impressed with Nichols, who went 2-0 on the night and avenged a previous loss to No. 1-ranked wrestler Jeremy Vester (138).

“After falling behind early in the match, Nichols battled back with a dramatic throw late in the third period,” Magana said. “Nichols would earn the fall over Vester in one of the biggest upsets of the season.”

Admission to the meet was free, though donations, all of which went to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, were accepted at the door. The teams and their fans raised $1,000.

“Over the last few years, our wrestlers have been very excited to compete for such a worthy cause,” Magana said. “They love stepping up to raise awareness for such a good cause.”

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