Kamiak’s Cantini advances to finals at Mat Classic XXXI | Wrestling

Junior standout finishes second in 110 division in her third trip to state tourney
By David Pan | Feb 20, 2019
Photo by: David R Pan Kamiak junior Diana Cantini celebrates her 7-3 victory over Sunnyside’s Stephanie Blankenship in the 110-pound semifinals at Mat Classic XXXI Saturday, Feb. 16, in the Tacoma Dome. Cantini went on to place second in the division.

Diana Cantini appreciated the significance of the moment.

Hours and hours of practice led the Kamiak standout to the pinnacle in her junior season – a spot in the girls 110-pound finals at Mat Classic XXXI Saturday, Feb. 16, in the Tacoma Dome.

Even though Cantini ended up losing by fall to Rogers’ Salyna Shotwell at the 3-minute, 29-second mark, whatever disappointment she felt was minor compared to the thrill of battling for a state wrestling championship.

“I’m extremely grateful for having the opportunity to be in the finals,” Cantini said. “It’s something I realize that not a lot of people have a shot at, so it’s really special to me and I’ll keep it forever.”

Coming into her third appearance at state, Cantini was aiming for a top 5 finish after placing seventh at 105 at last year’s tournament.

“I’m glad I was able to get second,” she said.

Two years ago, Cantini watched as teammate Ally de la Cruz won Kamiak’s first-ever state wrestling title. At last year’s Mat Classic, de la Cruz finished sixth after having to withdraw from the tournament due to an injury.

In the finals, Shotwell took a 2-0 lead in the first period and was able to counter any moves by Cantini.

“She was very strong,” Cantini said of Shotwell, who finished third in the division at last year’s state meet. “She definitely dominated the match. I wasn’t given a lot of room to score. Usually, I like to get ahead. So when she got points, it definitely was different. I realized that she was definitely worthy of being in the finals and better than all of the other girls I wrestled.”

Cantini opened the tournament with a pin of Chief Sealth’s Alisa Chin in 57 seconds. She followed up with a 7-1 decision over Lincoln’s Melissa Mercado and a 5-1 victory over Sedro-Woolley’s Cora Orton in the quarterfinals.

Cantini’s best match of the tournament may have been in the semifinals where she won a 7-3 decision over Sunnyside’s Stephanie Blankenship.

“She wrestled a great match. She was in perfect position,” Kamiak coach John Baldwin said. “No mistakes were made.”

In looking over the state bracket and her opponents, Baldwin said that he thought a top 3 finish was a strong possibility.

“Second was definitely exceeding expectations,” he said.

Kamiak boys coach Bryan Stelling, who also has worked with Cantini since her freshman year, wasn’t surprised by her success.

“To move up to second pace, that’s really a great accomplishment,” he said. “She’s really deserving. She works really hard during the season but also in the offseason. … She’s just very dedicated in everything she does.”

Cantini was selected as a team captain for the entire Kamiak wrestling program. This was the first year that the school had an officially sanctioned girls team and Cantini has been a driving force for the Knights.

“She’s been leading lot of the drills and teaching stuff,” Baldwin said.

Cantini credited her family and teammates for her success this season.

“I had great practice partners and parents willing to drive me and everything,” she said. “I was given a lot of support.”

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