Grapplers face strong competitors at Tri-State in Idaho

Eight select Vashon wrestlers joined more than 500 elite grapplers at the Tri-State Tournament at North Idaho College in Coeur d’Alene on Dec. 17 and 18. This year’s Tri-State competition was expanded to feature dozens of reigning state champions and marquee wrestlers hailing from Washington, Idaho, Montana, Oregon and as far away as California and Arizona.

The Pirate wrestlers participated in Tri-State to experience the intensity of top-tier competition and the challenge of maintaining focus in a chaotic and distracting environment, according to assistant wrestling coach Per-Lars Blomgren.

“This was a good test of where we are at this point in the season against great competition,” Blomgren said.

Senior Alex Sohl stayed composed on the mat and was the outstanding Pirate, Blomgren said. In the first round, Sohl — recently selected as the WIAA/Seattle Times Athlete of the Week — seized upon his opponent’s mistake and pinned him after just 37 seconds. Sohl then secured a major decision (18-4) in the next round before being pinned by the eventual Tri-State 171-pound runner-up, who also is a current Washington state champion.

In his last match, Sohl was fighting to come back but ran out of time and lost 10-6 to land just outside the medal rounds in the 64-man bracket.

Robert Easton, a 189-pound sophomore, also had a good tournament, said Blomgren. “He wrestled smart in his matches,” Blomgren said, compiling a record of two wins by decision and two losses by decision. Easton considered his 1-0 victory to be his most memorable contest.

“In a low-scoring match, there is a lot of pressure,” Easton said. “Every point becomes more valuable. That’s when conditioning becomes a big factor.”

Dominik Stemer clocked the fastest pin in the entire Tri-State Tournament at just 13 seconds. In what essentially was a two-move bout, Stemer snapped down his 140-pound opponent and then secured a mad-dog move to pin him. Stemer lost his two other matches by pin and decision.

The Pirates found that there were no easy rounds at Tri-State since every bracket was jammed with talented wrestlers. Sjors Steneker made an all-out assault against his blue chip rivals but lost by a major decision and a decision. Blomgren credited Vince Jovanovich’s hard training for his maturity on the mat during his losses by decision and pin. Junior Kevin Thomas faced opponents who previously had tasted tournament success and was pinned in both rounds. Freshman Shane Armstrong impressed Blomgren with his tenacity as he refused to back down in his two losses by decision and pin. Maximo Mandl attended Tri-State, but did not wrestle due to an injury.

The Vashon girls went to an all-girls tournament at Yakima Valley Community College on Dec. 18, where they faced more than 100 competitors. Three of the five Pirate girls placed in their respective weight classes, and the team earned sixth place. Coach Dave Chapman thought that the Vashon girls fared well against their Eastern Washington counterparts, many of whom he expects to see again at the state tourney.

Madeleine Wolczko won first place at 119 pounds. Chapman described how Wolczko was completely in control as she pinned her way through her three matches. In the finals, Wolczko dominated her Hanford opponent with a reverse half-nelson for a fall in the first period.

After a first round bye at 130 pounds, Iris Spring pinned her foe in the third period. Spring then earned second-place after a loss in the finals to a tough Kennewick state placer.

First-year wrestler Julie Wilson used a freedom tie to set up a takedown and then used a half-nelson for the pin in the first round at 130 pounds. Wilson then lost two matches to claim fourth place.

The coaches will work with all of the wrestlers to improve their abilities in hand-fighting and mental toughness as they prepare for the Rock Tournament, which took place Tuesday on Vashon, too late for The Beachcomber’s deadline, and the Lake Stevens Tournament, which will take place Thursday.

Next home action is Jan. 19.

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