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3 Greyhound grapplers garner gold at Washington state wrestling tournament

Feb. 21—Pullman sophomore Israel Acosta (144 pounds) pinned Grandview's Julian Sanchez in the third period of their championship match at the Washington Class 2A state wrestling tournament on Saturday at the Tacoma Dome to claim his first career state title.

It was a ripple effect from there for the Greyhounds.

Seniors Ivan Acosta (150) and Aydin Peltier (157) took the mat directly following Israel, and both of them were crowned state champions for the first time in their careers.

It was the first time Pullman had three grapplers reach the top of the podium.

"Honestly, I knew we had the potential to have three state champions," Peltier said. "There were three columns (left in the mat room) to put the names of state champions, and I kept telling Ivan and Izzy (Israel) that we could fill that this year."

The "match of the tournament," according to Pullman coach Marcus Crossler, was Ivan Acosta against Orting's Apollo Cruz.

Cruz came in with a reputation for putting down Greyhounds at the Tacoma Dome and previously beat both Peltier (2022) and Izzy (2023) in state title bouts.

Ivan Acosta's emotions were high before he faced Cruz because his younger brother Izzy had won his first career state title moments before he stepped on the mat.

"I was super happy (for him)," Ivan said. "He's just a sophomore, and that's a huge accomplishment for him. It shows how much he can do. ... I've seen him on the national podium, and I knew he could do it, but seeing him right before my match was awesome, and it gave me the motivation that I needed. It was super cool."

Cruz and Ivan have squared off multiple times over the years, and until his triumph on Saturday, he was winless against the two-time state champion.

Ivan Acosta was admittedly a "little nervous" before his match against Cruz. But he kept a "clear mind," leading into his title match.

"I wanted to show that I was dominant," Ivan said. "And once it came time to wrestle Apollo, I told myself it's just another match, kept a positive mindset and got after it."

The two offensive wrestlers got after it from the opening whistle, and Ivan recorded the first takedown from a scramble situation.

"That set the tone for me," Ivan said. "It showed me that he's beatable."

Ivan had a 5-3 advantage with 10 seconds left in regulation, and Cruz attempted a final takedown to force overtime.

"I was holding on for dear life," Ivan said. "I already began to feel it in the final seconds, and I couldn't even describe the emotions. I just knew I won it, and it was really emotional, and my dad and brother were there to witness it with me, and it was an overall great experience."

Izzy Acosta had a dominant path to his state title and didn't give up a point throughout the tournament.

The sophomore notched three first-period pins en route to his championship match.

"Going out there and getting all those first-period pins is pretty much unheard of," Crossler said. "Usually, at any other tournament, that's enough criteria to get you the "Outstanding Wrestler" plaque. I've never witnessed a kid be that dominant at State."

Izzy Acosta used built-up anger from his 7-4 championship loss to Cruz in 2023 to claim a state title and finish the year undefeated (32-0).

This aggression fueled Izzy Acosta, who, according to Crossler, is already "super competitive," and even if he's playing dodgeball after practice and loses, he "gets pissed."

He also benefited from practicing with his brother every day.

"Coming into the season, he was Gung Ho and prepped every way he could," Crossler said. "It was wild to watch some of the scraps he had with his brother. ... There was some extra circular stuff sometimes, but with those guys, it's iron sharpening iron."

The sophomore has an impressive high school resume so far with an overall record of 84-3.

"It felt like a weight had been lifted off my chest," Izzy Acosta said on winning his first state title. "After taking second (last year), it felt that much better to come back and win it."

Peltier recorded his 100th career victory with a 3-0 decision over Chirs Dale of Wood River (Buckley, Wash.) in the 157-pound championship match.

"That was a surreal moment," Peltier said. "The fact that I won the state tournament made it a perfect weekend, and my 100th win on top of winning my state title — you couldn't paint a better picture."

All eyes were on Peltier during his title bout, as he was the third consecutive Hound to compete for a state title.

"He had a whole host of people in his corner," Crossler said. "His family was all there, and it was loud at that point in time because we were the talk of the town in the 2A, and that one corner of the dome was focused on Pullman's back-to-back successes. ... Aydin was pumped, and it was just raw emotion when he stepped onto the mat."

Peltier easily made the semifinals, notching a first-period pin and a 14-0 decision in his first two matches.

His semifinal bout was a bit more competitive, winning 7-3 against Aberdeen's Aidan Watkins.

"I've competed in the state arena before, and I look at it like another day at the office," Peltier said. "But heading into the semis, there was a bit more pressure because it was my last chance to make it to the finals, and I ended up winning."

It was a bit of a scramble for Peltier's corner to game plan for Dale, as it wasn't the opponent they had penciled in for the finals.

Crossler and his staff anticipated the tournament's No. 1 seed, Tennyson Kurtz of Columbia River (Vancouver, Wash), to meet up with Peltier in the title bout. But Kurtz lost to Camilo Mendez of Othello due to an illegal slam.

Dale pinned Mendez in the second period to advance to the finals.

Crossler and company watched film on the White River grappler and discovered he was a defensive wrestler who didn't attempt many takedowns.

"We told Aydin that he had to take some shots and ride it out," Crossler said. "That's exactly what he did and hung on for a 3-0 victory in the title match."

The Greyhounds brought four wrestlers to the end-of-year tournament and left with four placers.

Pullman's other medalist was Evan McDougle, who finished eighth at 132.

McDougle lost his opening contest and won two straight consolation bouts to earn a spot on the podium.

"He came back and wrestled some of the best matches of his career," Crossler said. "His back was against the wall, where if he lost, he was out, and he continued to have phenomenal matches."

McDougle placing at State was one of Peltier's "favorite parts" of the entire event.

The pair of seniors are training partners and have played a big part in each other's wrestling careers.

"Evan has been a big part of this journey," Peltier said. "I haven't had the best luck with training partners, and Evan has not only been my longest training partner, but he's also been my best friend through all of this."

This historic moment for Pullman was a sentimental moment for Crossler, who has been coaching its state placers since they were 5 years old.

"It was surreal; that's the best way to sum it up," Crossler said. "That doesn't happen often, and then you get three back-to-back-to-back. It was the highlight of my coaching career."

Pixley may be contacted at tpixley@lmtribune.com, (208) 848-2268 or on Twitter @TreebTalks.