Wrestling is an odd sport where a team score is kept and a winning team is declared, but the result is entirely based on the merits of individual performances. While only individual wrestlers can earn team points, the entire team can still contribute to the success of one teammate. This has never been as evident as it was last Thursday in Eatonville, when the Pirate squad gave one of their own the endurance he needed to pull down a victory that won them the meet, 39-34.
At wrestling meets, opponents are matched up according to size, and from there on out it is hand-to-hand combat under the lights. Wins on the mat mean points for the team, and the more a wrestler wins by, the more points he or she earns for the team.
Sometimes, a team’s fate rests squarely on the shoulders of one individual. Say, for instance, your team is down by just one point. Win the match, you’re the hero. Lose the match, and you’re the goat. The gym is dark, and you are alone under the single floodlight focused on the center circle. It is not your home gym, and you are facing not just an opponent, but their home crowd and they don’t like you.
And so it was for the Pirates last Thursday night, when Vashon was down 34-33. That night, Louie Jovanovich, 275 pounds, picked up his team, put them on his stalwart back and put in the performance of his career.
The match started easily enough, but then things went horribly wrong. Jovanovich was on the bottom and struggling. The Eatonville crowd was going nuts.
Jovanovich got turned and was close to being pinned. But he held on, and on, and on. When it got down to short time, every Pirate there was yelling encouragement for Jovanovich to just hang on, and he did. At the end of round one, he was down 5-0, and the Pirate bench was deflated.
From the second the whistle blew in round two, the Pirates were up on their feet. Jovanovich began his comeback, and the energy coming off the Vashon bench was palpable. Every wrestler was on his feet screaming, not at Jovanovich, but for him. They were all miming the moves that they thought he should do. Not that he could see them, but he could feel them. Everyone in the gym could feel it. This disparate group of kids with one common heart lifted Jovanovich up and put him on their backs.
Jovanovich knew the tide had turned by the end of round two. The score was tied at 5-5; his opponent was gassed, and the Eatonville crowd was quiet.
At the start of round three, the Pirate bench amped up their intensity another degree. When Jovanovich turned his opponent, it was bedlam. As the ref slapped the mat for a pin, it was madness.
The Pirates won the dual meet, 39-34.
Individual varsity winners were Chase Wickman, Clyde Pruett, Shane Armstrong, Preston Morris, A.J. Sawyer and Jovanovich. Winning two matches by forfeit ended up being the difference in the final score. Junior varsity action saw wins by Fletcher and Baxter Call, Franklin Easton and Kanit Jungsakulnjivek.
Two days later, the Pirates competed at the Jaguar Invitational Tournament at Emerald Ridge High School in Puyallup. Winning his first tournament of the season was Wickman. Sawyer took second, Armstrong third and Jovanovich fifth.
The Pirates play next as they go for the league championship on Thursday, Jan. 24. It will be senior night, and they are facing a tough Bellevue Christian squad in the last league action of the season. On Friday, Jan. 25, Emerald Ridge High School will be here for the final dual meet of the season. Junior varsity action kicks off at 6 p.m., varsity at 7 p.m.
— Cheryl Pruett is the mother of two Pirate wrestlers.