Sports

Wrestling: TJ's McIntosh hopes hard work pays off

Thomas Jefferson senior Kyle McIntosh improved to 33-1 on the season after winning the 145-pound championship at the Region I Wrestling Tournament Saturday at Auburn High School. McIntosh will be favorite to win at Friday and Saturday
Thomas Jefferson senior Kyle McIntosh improved to 33-1 on the season after winning the 145-pound championship at the Region I Wrestling Tournament Saturday at Auburn High School. McIntosh will be favorite to win at Friday and Saturday's Mat Classic inside the Tacoma Dome.
— image credit: Charles Cortes/For the Mirror

Hard work does pay off. Just ask Kyle McIntosh.

The Thomas Jefferson senior has developed into one of the top 145-pound wrestlers in the state of Washington, thanks to hours upon hours spent over the last year honing his craft.

But that’s just what it takes to excel in the rugged and very individualistic sport. In wrestling, hard work does pay off.

“He has been doing nothing but living and breathing wrestling since the end of wrestling season last year,” said TJ head coach Jess Workman. “He has a tremendous work ethic and is always looking to improve and get better every day.”

McIntosh has rolled to an impressive 33-1 record this season and enters this weekend’s Mat Classic state wrestling tournament inside the Tacoma Dome as the favorite at 145. The championships conclude tonight with finals starting at 5 p.m. Thomas Jefferson hasn’t had an individual state champion since Aaron Waldrip in 1993.

“I’m shooting for first,” McIntosh said. “That’s my ultimate goal. To do that, I’ve got to wrestle one match at a time.”

The one match that didn’t go McIntosh’s way this season came at the Yakima SunDome Mat Classic on Dec. 20 to Olympic High School’s Brandon Yeik. The match went into overtime, with Yeik eventually winning a 6-5 decision.

“That still kind of upsets me,” McIntosh said. “But he’s one of my good friends. He won state as a sophomore, so it was kind of a confidence boost.”

The offseason between his junior and senior seasons was also a confidence boost for McIntosh. That’s when he competed on the freestyle and Greco-Roman circuits, as well as attended wrestling camps in places like Yelm, Ellensburg and Eastern Washington University. He also travelled to Fargo, N.D., to compete in the freestyle national tournament.

“It is defnitely nice to see him get rewarded for the time and energy he has put into wrestling,” Workman said. “This is what the sport teaches you. You will be rewarded with the amount of dedication and work you put into it, and he has definitely put a lot into this sport to be where he is currently standing now.”

According to washingtonwrestlingreport.com, McIntosh enters the state wrestling meet as the top-ranked 145-pounder in the Class 4A tournament. If the rankings are any indication, McIntosh will meet up with No. 2-ranked Niko Hughes from Kelso in today’s semifinal, scheduled for 10:40 a.m. inside the Tacoma Dome. The 145-pound final is slated for 7:20 p.m. McIntosh beat Hughes at last year’s Mat Classic, 4-1, on his way to a fifth-place finish at 140 pounds.

“I’ve beaten the top-four guys in my bracket before,” he said. “But that doesn’t mean anything. We’ll just see how it goes.”

McIntosh thinks that his experience under the bright lights of the Mat Classic last year will be beneficial this time around. During his run to fifth place in 2009, McIntosh was able to wrestle six matches inside the Tacoma Dome, winning four.

“I know what to expect,” he said. “I’m not going to be overwhelmed with the Tacoma Dome. It’s humbling being down on the floor with everyone watching. I just need to relax and not get ahead of myself and take it one match at a time. It’s just another tournament.”

“I think his chances are great for this weekend,” Workman said. “He definitely has to take each match as they come, but I feel if he brings it and wrestles his style and speed, it would be hard for people to keep up with him. He definitely deserves this opportunity laid out in front of him by all the hard work and dedication. Kyle has shown over the last four years that he has this inner drive that I have not seen in a wrestler in a long time.”

McIntosh isn’t the only Federal Way school district wrestler with a chance to stand on top of the podium at the Mat Classic. In fact, a total of 19 wrestlers from the district qualified for the state tournament, including three other regional champions.

Decatur’s Dylan Aparis followed up his 152-pound SPSL South title with the Region II championship last weekend at Beamer and Federal Way’s Jocie Weinberger and Bianca Arizpe won at the Region II Girls Tournament in Puyallup.

“Dylan is becoming more complete as a wrestler each day,” said Decatur coach Mike Bressler. “After last season we talked about tightening up his style and working not to give up easy points. He is so explosive that he can score on most any one. To be the best in the state he will need to defend as well. I believe he is as good as anyone in his weight class. It will be up to him to prove it. He is the underdog.”

Weinberger returns to the Mat Classic after finishing second in 2009. The 130-pound junior is ranked fourth by washingtonwrestlingreport.com in her weight class. Mount Baker senior Shanli Dillard enters state as the favorite at 130. Arizpe, a freshman, is ranked third at 112 pounds entering her first Mat Classic.

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