The Vashon Pirates sent six wrestlers to the 25th annual Mat Classic state competition last Friday and Saturday at the Tacoma Dome. After the first round of action, they had won five matches, four of them by pin, and were on a roll.
Two finished in the medals: Shane Armstrong, third, and Preston Morris, second.
The young squad gained a lot of valuable experience and has a solid base to build on for next year, said Coach Anders Blomgren. He added that he was pleased with the team’s performance and thrilled to have a representative in the finals.
“What an amazing season. We made so many improvements each week, thanks to all the team members’ selflessness and desire to improve,” he said.
Noting the special achievements of Armstrong and Morris, Blomgren added, “They’ve done their time and are reaping their rewards for their off-season training.”
Who made it to state? Here’s a look.
Chase Wickman (freshman, 106 pounds) has been wrestling since he was six years old. He spent all of this season 10 to 12 pounds lighter and eight inches shorter than all of his opponents, but that didn’t seem to slow him down.
In his first state competition, he won his first match, up 4-0 in the first 15 seconds, and pinned his opponent with 7 seconds to go in the first round. His last opponent, a classy competitor from Forks who barely hung on to beat him 5-3, told Wickman after the match that with 10 more pounds, he’d be the state champ. He’s the one everyone will be watching next season.
Shane Armstrong (junior, 170 pounds) began wrestling in the seventh grade and has become one of the state’s premier wrestlers. This year marked his third trip to the state competition.
In his first match, he pinned his opponent from Kettle Falls in the third round and won his next match 13-5 against his counterpart from Zillah. Moving on to day two, he lost a power brawl to Adam Collins of Chewelah, 7-5, then came back up through the backside of the bracket, beating Cody Harvill of Omak, 14-12, in overtime.
He faced Anthony Louthan of Montesano in the battle for third place, winning 6-3.
Preston Morris (junior, 195 pounds) went into this year’s state competition as the number-one seed. He has been wrestling since the sixth grade and has made a name for himself on the mat.
This was his second year at the state meet; he finished fourth last year. He emerged victorious in his first three matches — beating his Chewelah opponent, 4-1; taking on Eli Galeno of Granger and winning 6-2; then engaging in an old-fashioned pushing match against Greg Heinen of Connell, winning 4-2.
This put him in the finals for the first time in his career. It was a nailbiter all the way as he battled Abidan Duarte of Granger, losing by a single point, 2-1, and placing second at state.
Joe Coller (sophomore, 220 pounds) is a relative beginner; this year marked his third in wrestling. Even so, he has already been a state participant two times, an amazing feat. Coller won his first match, pinning his opponent from Zillah in the first round. Tougher matches followed, knocking him out of the tournament but giving “Joey Blue Socks” valuable experience to build on for next year.
A.J. Sawyer (senior, 220 pounds) capped an excellent senior season with a trip to State for the second time. His opening brawl was veritable slap fest before he put the hammer down and pinned his Warden counterpart in round one. He fought hard but lost the next two and was out, but enjoyed his time at State and added valuable team points to the effort.
Louis Jovanovich (junior, 285 pounds) is indisputably the support backbone of his team who many players turn to. He is there to pick up the beaten and congratulate the victor.
In just his third year wrestling, he made his second trip to State. Facing tough competition from Warden and Chewelah, he was out after two matches, but looks to be the one to take it all next year.
— Cheryl Pruett is the parent of two Pirate wrestlers.