Grays Harbor College dominates en route to women's wrestling conference title

Mar. 5—The Grays Harbor College women's wrestling team won eight individual titles en route to a dominant victory at the National Collegiate Wrestling Association Northwest Conference Championships on Saturday at Hoquiam High School.

The Chokers won eight of the event's 11 weight classes in scoring 180 points, outpacing second-place Washington State (134 points) for their third conference title in the past four seasons.

"As a team, we wrestled great," Grays Harbor head coach Kevin Pine said. "As a team, this is the best we've wrestled all year. Still more work to do and I'm looking forward to what we can do at the (national) championship."

A total of 12 Chokers advanced to their respective weight-class final, with three championship matches featuring two Grays Harbor College grapplers in a head-to-head matchup.

Grays Harbor's Marissa Riojas defeated teammate Elizabeth Patana via fall at 2:35 to win the 136-pound championship.

Courtney Jones defeated Grays Harbor teammate Marinthia Mendoza at 1:20 of the 143-pound title match.

Former Elma standout Hailee Stoken won the 155-pound title with an 8-3 decision over Chokers teammate Cassidy Rehder.

"It was a really good match and it's really hard to wrestle a teammate because we both want to win. Overall, the match was very beneficial for us both. It kind of showed us certain things that we didn't notice in our wrestling because we kind of slowed it down and just wrestled," said Stoken, who has improved as of late after moving up a weight class. "(The championship) means a lot to me. At the beginning of the season, I did good and then I just hit a plateau. I struggled a lot. Once we got to national duals, my coaches had me wrestle up at 155. ... I just means a lot to be able to go out there and show that I can still win even at that higher weight."

Grays Harbor's Eden Lopez defeated Washington State's Carlita Cardona-Arce via pinfall at 4:07 to win the 109-pound title.

The Chokers' Alexandria Kauffman-Temple earned a 123-pound title via injury default after Western Washington's Jada Yamada was unable to answer the bell for the final.

Grays Harbor College 130-pound freshman Maysa Brown jumped out to a 7-0 lead in the first period en route to a pinfall win at 3:37 over Washington State graduate student Kassi Irelan in the 130-pound final.

"At first, I was getting a little nervous because she is an experienced wrestler," Brown said. "But Coach Pine gave me some pointers. He said it's just wrestling. It's like a regular match and take it like it is. So I took it move by move, I was patient and it just came to me."

"We talked about the game plan going in that (Irelan) was going to come out hard and physical and try to intimidate you. If you just stay in there and maintain good position, battle in that situation, things will work out," Pine said of Brown's poised performance. "Just stay in there, know what's coming and if you don't falter and give in, she'll gas out and she did. Maysa is just really cool, calm and collected."

Chokers standout sophomore Raneah Ureste held off a strong challenge from Washington State's Taylor Thomas — who tied the match at 10-10 in the third period — to eventually earn a pinfall win at 6:51 of the 191-pound title match.

"That's going to make her tougher," Pine said of Ureste's hard-fought victory in the final. "It's going to show her that she can go out to deep waters and survive and push her opponents until they quit."

Grays Harbor's Jojera Dodge pinned Washington State's Marianna Mendoza-Jimenez at 1:35 to win the 235-pound championship.

Pine talked about how his talented group persevered through some challenging matches on Saturday.

"We had to dig deep and conditioning and heart became a factor and we won matches because of that," he said. "We've had the opportunity to get a lot of mat time this season and at this point of the year, that matters. We've come out ahead because we have 20 or 30 matches under our belt where our opponents might have half of that."

No Chokers wrestler placed lower than third in their respective weight class as all 14 Grays Harbor student-athletes earned a qualifying spot in at the NCWA National Championships March 14-16 in Louisiana.

Also qualifying for Grays Harbor was Georgia Ustaszewski (170 pounds, 2nd), Nancy Frayle (170, 3rd) and Declyn Foster (191, 3rd).

"Very clutch, my teammates are," Brown said. "They'll be getting beat and they'll come back hard and win the match and it's very inspiring. I look up to my team. There are a lot of great girls on there that just go hard."

"The team has done very well. What we do in the room — we do constant workouts — they put in the work because they want to go somewhere," Ustaszewski said. "We push each other to the limit and we just focus. We put our minds to it."

Support and work ethic has been a central theme of the program under Pine, who has now guided the Chokers to three conference titles in the past four seasons as head coach.

"You don't have many opportunities in your career, either as an athlete or a coach, where you have a group of kids that are friends, they train hard together and support each other. That doesn't happen a whole lot," Pine said. "We were by far the loudest team here and I had parents and recruits here that pointed that out. ... It was both the men and women (teams) supporting each other."

The support shown by all the Grays Harbor wrestlers extended to an opponent as the Chokers cheered on current Washington State Cougar and former Choker Maryum Ajaz, who placed second at 116 pounds.

"I think we do a really good job of supporting each other as a team," said Stoken, alluding to how Chokers often wrestle each other in meet finals. "We just go in there, we wrestle and we're still happy because we did that as a team and we took the points, and that's what matters most. At the end of the day, it's not about who is better. It's about our team is better and it shows."

For his efforts, Pine was named the conference's Women's Coach of the Year while Washington State's Phil Burnett earned the Men's Coach of the Year honor.

Full results available at

GHC Results

109 pounds: 1, Eden Lopez.

123: 1, Alexandria Kauffman-Temple.

130: 1, Maysa Brown.

136: 1, Marissa Riojas. 2, Elizabeth Patana.

143: 1, Courtney Jones. 2, Marinthia Mendoza.

155: 1, Hailee Stoken. 2, Cassidy Rehder.

170: 2, Georgia Ustaszewski. 3, Nancy Frayle.

191: 1, Renaeh Ureste. 3, Declyn Foster.

235: 1, Jojera Dodge.