STATE WRESTLING: Navejas, Crook-Meyers snag titles

Heartbreak and elation proved to be the theme Saturday night at the Tacoma Dome for a handful of Kentwood wrestlers.

Kentwood 103 pounder Ruben Navejas and Jolene Crook-Meyers, competing at 140 pounds in the girls tournament, lit up the Tacoma Dome with ear-to-ear grins.

Both brought home titles, Navejas in nail-biting fashion and Crook-Meyers with sheer dominance.

But the night proved bittersweet for the Conquerors.

Because while Navejas and Crook-Meyers couldn’t contain their excitement, teammates Cody Quinn (140) and Antonia Navejas (152), Ruben’s older sister, fell just short of their dreams.

Ruben and Antonia were trying to become the state’s first-ever brother-sister state champion combination.

The younger Navejas did his part, opening the championship round in fine fashion, dispatching Bryce Evans of Rogers (Puyallup), 4-2 in overtime.

Navejas notched a two-point, title-clinching takedown with 21 seconds remaining in overtime.

“This is amazing,” said Navejas, a sophomore, who improved to 38-2 this year. “I had a bad match with him (during the season) and I wanted to show everyone I could overcome that. I went out there and I got him.”

He certainly did.

And after pulling off the big win, Navejas jumped into the waiting arms of his dad, Ruben Sr.

Evans is the lone wrestler to have beaten Navejas this year, upending the Kentwood wrestler twice.

“He’s a good opponent,” said Navejas, who came into the match 1-2 against Evans. “He brings (out) the best in both of us. And I respect that.”

The historic finish, however, wasn’t meant to be as a little more than an hour later, Antonia was pinned by Lakewood’s Christina Ordonez with just seconds remaining in the first period.

“I didn’t come out 100 percent,” lamented Antonia, who took second last year and first the year before that.

It was Antonia’s first loss of the season. She finished the year with a 22-1 record and is 97-21 for her prep career.

While Antonia wasn’t quite able to get it done, Crook-Meyers was as dominant as ever, pinning Skyline’s Alexis Willcher in 1:12 to win the crown.

Crook-Meyers pinned her way through the league and regional tournaments, but had to go the full six minutes twice during the state tournament.

“It feels really good. It’s something I’ve been waiting a long time for,” said Crook-Meyers, who took second at state last year. “I was really surprised (after the pin). I jumped up really quickly, then stood there and wondered, ‘Did this really happen?’”

But while Crook-Meyers was celebrating her title, Quinn was on an adjacent mat locked into an overtime battle with Jordan Rogers, Mead’s freshman sensation.

Quinn forced overtime by registering an escape with 7.9 seconds remaining in regulation. Quinn didn’t waste any time forcing the action in overtime, going in for an immediate single-leg takedown. Rogers sprawled out, then circled around the Kentwood senior for the two-point, title-clinching takedown.

It was a frustrating end to a match that had plenty of questionable calls, Kentwood coach Ken Sroka said.

“It’s really tough. I like to see kids win matches, I don’t like to see officials or anything else (get into) the match,” the coach said. “Cody wrestled well enough to win.”

Despite the loss, Quinn became Kentwood’s first-ever four-time state placer. In addition, the second-place finish was Quinn’s best in four attempts.

“Cody’s not only an outstanding wrestler, but a great leader for our program,” Sroka added. “I know it’s not a big deal to him to be our school’s first-ever four-time state placer, but it is a big deal.”

Some of the best performances, however, came from those who missed out on the championship round.

Of particular note was Kentwood heavyweight Nathan Herrick, who barely qualified for the state tournament after taking fifth at regionals.

The junior pulled potentially the toughest draw of the tournament as he was pitted against Decatur’s Tevyn Tillman — who went on to win the title — in the first round.

Herrick challenged Tillman, but ended up dropping the match 10-5. Herrick, however, didn’t lose another match the rest of the way, stringing together five straight wins to bring home first place.

“Nathan’s performance was outstanding,” Sroka said.

Teddy Zografos (125), who also barely qualified for the state tournament, rounded out Kentwood’s medalists with an eighth-place finish.

Kent-Meridian’s Jesus Valdez (103) moved up three spots from last season, bringing home a solid fifth-place finish.

Kentlake’s Austin Carrillo, the lone Falcon to compete in the tournament, took eighth.

Kentridge’s Nick Aliment, a sophomore, brought home eighth place as well.

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