10th-place finish leaves Wolves wanting more

The night might have ended on a bit of a disappointing note but Ron Hudiburg will take it.

Coaching in his final Mat Classic Saturday at the Tacoma Dome, Hudiburg watched as his final team took 10th place overall and placed four individuals in the Class 4A division, led by sophomore Brent Chriswell, who finished second in the 160-pound division.

“Our first goal was to place up there as high as we could (as a team),” Hudiburg said. “We thought we’d be in the top 10 and we are, and that feels pretty good. We’d have liked to place a few more kids and placed some a little higher, but you have to take what you can get.”

The Wolves scored 52 points for the top 10 placing. Lake Stevens won the team title with 124.5 points. The Wolves’ Pat Kelly took fifth in the 152-pound weight class, while Micah Kipperberg was sixth at 135 and Brandon Kelly placed eighth at 130.

But the buzz in the Wolves camp was all about Chriswell, who lost a close final match to Mike Johnson of Tahoma, 4-1.

“I’m disappointed,” Chriswell said. “I had a lot of high expectations for my coaches and family. I think they’re happy, but I’m not. I’m pissed.”

Chriswell is the only sophomore to make the finals under Hudiburg and may be the first ever in South’s wrestling history.

“(Johnson) wrestled a smart match against us and we couldn’t work our stuff,” Hudiburg said. “He took advantage of the situation. There were a couple of times where we almost scored and we didn’t. Sometimes the breaks go your way and sometimes they go the other way. That’s the way it works.”

The Wolves saw a lot of that during the two-day event, as four of the seven wrestlers placed, the most for the team in the last five years. But there was also a whiff of disappointment in the air.

“The effort was there, it just wasn’t in the cards,” assistant coach Chad Nass said. “I’m proud of them, that’s for sure, they wrestled as hard as they could, it just wasn’t in the cards.”

Chriswell’s second-place finish was the highest for a South wrestler since Derrick Kipperberg won a state title in 2002.

Pat Kelly overcame an injured ankle to wrap up his wrestling career with a win over Alex Bubb of Skyview, 11-3. Kelly had hurt his ankle in his loss to Matt Stover in Friday’s quarterfinal round and was challenged by the coaching staff to show his stuff.

“Coaches were telling me to gut it out and show my pride,” Kelly said. “And it didn’t hurt that much this last match. And that’s the fourth time I’ve wrestled him so I kind of knew what I was getting into.”

Kelly placed seventh last year and came into the meet with high expectations.

“I’m pretty happy with it,” Kelly said. “Baseball is my main focus, so wrestling, anything I get is basically a bonus.”

Fellow senior Micah Kipperberg endured a rough final day, losing in the semifinals of his weight class and then dropping his final match to Zach Halcumb to finish sixth.

“It was pretty tough for me, but I knew what I had to do and I tried to do it and I didn’t,” Kipperberg said. “That was my last match. It hasn’t really hit me yet, but it will.”

Kipperberg had also placed seventh at last year’s meet.

Junior Brandon Kelly overcame a quarterfinal loss on Friday to get eighth in the 130 class.

“I was just happy to place,” Brandon Kelly said. “It’s tough to fight back (once you fall into the losers bracket). The kids that come back and get third are probably the most mentally tough.”

Seniors Craig Senter and Jon Potts and junior Kyle Coppinger made the state tournament but did not place in the top eight of their respective weight classes.

“I had high expectations for the tournament,” Senter said. “But if there’s one thing I can say, I have no regrets. I put it all out there on the mat. Right now it’s like I can’t not think about it because I know I’m better than a lot of kids that are placing, or at least equal. Someday I’ll look back on it and remember that I got to state twice.”

Hudiburg, who is retiring after a 34-year career, was named the Class 4A Coach of the Year at the tournament and admitted to getting a little emotional during the day.

“I did a little bit when I got those awards,” Hudiburg said. “And then watching some of the kids, watching them lose, it was kind of tough.”

But he’s also happy to see the end come.

“It’s really kind of a relief to finally be done,” Hudiburg said. “Now I can kind of enjoy some other things.”

“What a way to go out,” assistant coach Dave Dyess said. “I mean, Coach of the Year honors, got to sit in the finals. It didn’t go the way we wanted but just to get there. I think Ron’s got a lot to be proud of.”

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