Kittitas Wrestling

Kittitas High School’s Paul Jones, left, and Tony Rios qualified for regionals this Saturday. Jones competes in the 170-pound weight class and Rios competes in the 120-pound weight class.

KITTITAS — The thing about wrestling is it doesn’t matter what level you wrestle at. It’s just two competitors, one circle, one winner. Champions are forged in the room and showcased under the dome.

Kittitas sophomore Tony Rios (28-0) and junior Paul Jones (26-5) have been the leaders in the Coyotes room all season, and both continue to ride high from stellar performances at the Ray Westberg Invite last month.

The 2B guys proved they can handle themselves. Rios won the 113-pound Westberg championship and Jones finished as the runner-up at 170 pounds. They’ve been riding that wave of confidence ever since, leading the Coyotes into this week’s 2B Region III in Orville.

“Winning at the Westberg is cooler than being the district champion,” said Rios, who placed fourth in the 2B Mat Classic last year as a freshman. “The Westberg is the hardest tournament of the year besides state. We were the only 2B school going against 4A guys. It really means something to be able to win in that bracket.”

Jones made the podium at the 2019 Mat Classic, finishing sixth as a sophomore. He wrestled for a championship at the Westberg and says that confidence is a key ingredient to his 26-win season so far.

“Wrestling well at the Westberg gave me a lot of confidence. I have friends that wrestle at bigger schools and they always say that 2B doesn’t mean much. So to be able to perform at that high level there is really encouraging,” Jones said. “It’s a big confidence builder going into regionals and state.”

For Rios, it’s just his second year of organized wrestling. He is currently undefeated, but will have some work to do this weekend, wrestling in the same bracket with No. 1 Waylon Wilson of Tonasket.

“I show him something once and he’s got it,” Coyote coach Connor Treat said. “He’s very athletic and a quick study.”

Said Rios, who’s the No. 2-ranked 120-pounder in the 2B classification. “It’s about putting in all the hard work in the room,” he said. “Before the season even started I started running miles and miles to get ready.

“I’ve been working on my technique and moves. I’m always looking to shoot and find their weaknesses. But you have to have defense, too, and be able to recognize when they shoot how to counter that. That’s been the biggest adjustment this season.”

Jones got off to a slow start, fighting through some sickness early in the season. He’s riding high, but will have his work cut out for him at the 2B Region II tournament where he’ll face No. 2 ranked Coby Guzman.

“Every kid I’ve lost to has been a state placer,” said Jones, who is ranked fourth in the Washington Wrestling Report 2B rankings. “I’ve lost to an Idaho state placer, a 2A state placer and a 3A state placer.

“This weekend against Coby Guzman will be a real test. If I can win, I’ll be set up in the state bracket with a good chance to win. So it’s about wrestling well from here on out.”

The Coyotes advanced all 11 wrestlers out of the EWAC District 5 tournament at White Swan. It will be a little tougher this week at the 2A Region III with top-ranked Tonasket in the bracket.

“These guys are doing great for a bunch a freshmen,” Treat said. “If they survive, they’ll be pretty good next year with another year of experience under their belt.”

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