After 28 years, Selah wrestlers finally come home with state hardware

For the past three seasons, the Selah High wrestling program has had a lock on seventh place at the Class 2A state tournament. But with a stable full of returning talent, the Vikings felt like this was their year to move up in the standings.

After being ranked in the top five all season long, coach Ken Mozingo’s crew lived up to their billing, earning a fourth-place finish at the Feb. 21-22 Mat Classic in the Tacoma Dome. More importantly, they secured the program’s first state trophy in nearly three decades.

“Selah hasn’t come home with any hardware since 1992, so it was really cool to see our kids standing on the podium,” said Mozingo, whose team finished seventh at state in 2017, 2018 and 2019. “That was a great moment for our kids, and they should be very proud of what they accomplished.”

The Viks ended up with one individual champion, two third-place winners and a fifth-place finisher, helping them hold off CWAC rival Othello for fourth place with 85.5 points. Another league foe, Toppenish, won its second straight team title — fourth in the past five years — with 247.5 points, followed by Orting (179) and White River (96).

Mozingo said the Vikings were within striking distance of White River for third place, but the team was still happy to end up on the medal stand (only the top four teams in each classification receive trophies).

“This is what it’s all about,” said Mozingo, a former Viking himself who has been leading the program since the 2005-06 season. “The kids set a goal this season to move up, and everyone in our program made it happen. It was a true team effort.”

Leading the way once again this season was senior 220-pounder Amadeo Flores Pimentel, who won his third consecutive state championship. Selah’s first-ever three-time state champion cruised into the finals with three first-round pins before winning a 7-2 decision over Quincy’s Ruben Vargas in the finals.

“Amadeo was such a great leader for us all year, and he never put himself above the team,” Mozingo said. “He was always talking to the other kids, propping them up and encouraging them. That’s why the team voted him our most inspirational wrestler. We’re definitely going to miss him in the room next year.”

Another inspirational leader for the Vikings this season was senior Jackson Yates, who claimed a third-place medal at 160 pounds. He fell to eventual champion Weston Lyver of White River in the quarterfinals before rolling through the consolation bracket virtually untouched. Yates capped his comeback with a 10-0 major decision over Dalton Reed of Orting in the third-place match.

“He lost his second match, but came back in championship form,” Mozingo said. “No one else even came close to him. Jackson is one of the hardest-working kids I’ve ever had and he always led by example. Four years of pounding — that’s what I’ll remember most about him.”

Sophomore 132-pounder Jesse Salinas was Selah’s other third-place winner, matching his 2019 finish at 126 pounds. He dropped a 7-2 decision in the quarterfinals before rebounding with two falls and a major decision in the consolation bracket. Salinas won his third-place match 7-2 over Owen Cline of Orting, but getting there was not a given. Before he could claim a spot in the consolation final, he had to beat Jason Zuniga of Toppenish in a loser-out match.

“Jesse had to wrestle a death match against a kid he had a tough time with this season,” Mozingo said. “But he was able to pin him early in the third round and then he just caught fire after that. He’s going to be in the conversation for the top spot next year.”

Selah’s fourth medal winner was sophomore Donny Schmidt, who reached the 182-pound semifinals and finished in fifth place. He won a couple of close decisions before falling to Julian Kennedy of Black Hills in the semis. But Schmidt rebounded well in the consolation bracket to claim a 6-0 decision over Elliot Carlsson of Steilacoom in the fifth-place match.

Senior Evan Anderson also competed at state, along with sophomores Ethan Garza and Titan Nelson. Garza, Nelson, Schmidt and Salinas will be among next year’s team leaders, along with state alternates Judah Yates and Michael Ray, both sophomores.

Sophomore Marcos Gonzalez and freshman Moon Thompson also had strong seasons, each barely missing the state cut with sixth-place finishes at regionals. Mozingo added that he is expecting big things next season from Shane Fletcher, Alonzo Lopez and Clayton Chandler.

The coach also thanked his assistants — Aaron “Tito” Pimentel, Levi Needles and Enrique Godinez — who played a crucial role in the Vikings’ success.

“We had a great season and we accomplished our goal,” Mozingo said. “I couldn’t be more proud of these kids.”