Liberty’s Conner Small wins state title; two Hazen wrestlers medal

March 5, 2015

By Neil Pierson

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Conner Small didn’t achieve the dream of a lifetime on his own. The Liberty High School senior wrestler spent countless hours working toward a state championship with his father Bill.

By Greg Farrar Conner Small, Liberty High School senior, exults to his supporters in triumph as he wins the 170-lb. state 2A wrestling championship with a 7-3 win over Sedro Woolley senior Jacob Farrell Feb. 21 during Mat Classic XXVII at the Tacoma Dome.

By Greg Farrar
Conner Small, Liberty High School senior, exults to his supporters in triumph as he wins the 170-lb. state 2A wrestling championship with a 7-3 win over Sedro Woolley senior Jacob Farrell Feb. 21 during Mat Classic XXVII at the Tacoma Dome.

The process was a long and sometimes painful one — Small finished fifth as a sophomore and third as a junior — but it was ultimately rewarding as he captured the Class 2A state crown at 170 pounds to close the Mat Classic XXVII, Feb. 20-21 at the Tacoma Dome.

“Surreal” was the first word out of Small’s mouth after he defeated Sedro Woolley’s Jacob Farrell, 7-3, in the championship bout. He then spoke about the help he received from his dad.

“I can’t even explain what me and him have gone through,” Small said. “I owe everything to him. He’s been there since day one. I couldn’t ask for a more supportive father in my life.”

Small, who will compete at Arizona State University next year, rolled through his final Mat Classic with convincing decisions in his first three matches. It got tougher against Farrell, however, as Small held a tenuous 4-2 lead with two minutes left.

“We’ve been worried about this guy for a while,” Small said. “We’ve known he’s been my target all year, and he proved it out on the mat. He’s a great competitor. I was just there tonight. My head was in it, I knew what I wanted to do and I executed.”

Romney Noel was close — oh, so very close.

The Liberty senior needed points late in his 182-pound semifinal match against Sedro-Woolley’s Quinten Dickman-Roppel. He was able to escape with 35 seconds left, and had his opponent on the verge of a takedown that would’ve tied the score.

But Dickman-Roppel didn’t go down easily, and stayed on his feet long enough that Noel couldn’t complete the move inbounds. The Sedro-Woolley senior then got his own takedown and advanced to the final with a 7-3 victory.

Mental toughness allowed Noel to recover quickly, as he won his next two matches and finished third in the state.

“It’s hard to battle back after a loss, and I’m proud of myself for doing that,” Noel said.

Noel held off Quincy’s Cade Wallace, 5-3, and then took some tough shots from Washington’s Jacob Nelson in his placing match. Nelson was trailing in the third, and he slammed Noel out of bounds in an effort to get points. The move wasn’t dirty, but Noel had to fight through pain the rest of the way before getting a pin with 16 seconds left.

“Wrestling is the toughest thing I’ve ever done,” Noel said. “It’s taught me how to work, how to fight back after getting popped in the face. Wrestling teaches you how to be a warrior. You’re all alone out there, so it’s a good life lesson.”

Liberty senior Joanna Moreira capped her career with a fifth-place finish at 135 pounds in the girls’ division.

Hazen wrestlers win two medals

By Greg Farrar Raven Svenson (left), Hazen High School sophomore, wrestles Charliann McCall of Centralia at 155 pounds, eventually winning by pin at 2:31 in her first match at the Mat Classic XXVII state 3A championship tournament Feb. 20 at the Tacoma Dome. Svenson went on to win fifth at state.

By Greg Farrar
Raven Svenson (left), Hazen High School sophomore, wrestles Charliann McCall of Centralia at 155 pounds, eventually winning by pin at 2:31 in her first match at the Mat Classic XXVII state 3A championship tournament Feb. 20 at the Tacoma Dome. Svenson went on to win fifth at state.

Hazen High School qualified five wrestlers for the Mat Classic, and two finished the weekend as medalists.

The Highlanders’ highest finisher was sophomore Raven Svenson, who finished fifth in the girls’ 155-pound division. Svenson improved upon her 2014 performance, when she placed seventh at state.

“She sealed the deal with a strong performance in her medal match finishing the match with a textbook throw to a fall,” Hazen coach Rory Magana wrote in an email.

Hazen junior Nik Vargas was the other medalist, placing eighth in the boys’ 3A 132-pound division. Vargas dropped his opening-round match, but fought back through the lower bracket to secure a spot on the podium.

Magana praised Vargas’ performance, saying the junior wrestled with “fundamentally-sound technique.” Both Vargas and Svenson are expected to return next year.

Senior Anthony Scott (106), sophomore Tyson Mowrey (113) and senior Derek Nichols (138) didn’t place, but all three “fought hard and wrestled tough,” Magana said.

Scott made the state meet in what was his first year as a wrestler, Mowrey lost to his division’s third-place finisher, while Nichols got caught in one of the most competitive brackets in the 3A tournament, Magana said.

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