For the first time since 2009, the Vashon wrestling team cracked the top 10 in team points, finishing seventh overall at the state competition last weekend at the Tacoma Dome. What makes this performance all the more significant is that all the points were earned by just four wrestlers.
The crown jewel of the team’s effort was the championship performance by sophomore Chase Wickman, who dominantly charged through his 106-pound weight bracket. Taking hard-earned second place finishes were seniors Shane Armstrong at 170 pounds and Preston Morris at 195 pounds. In his third trip to the state competition, senior Louis Jovanovich cracked into the medal round, taking home eighth place.
With three team members competing in the finals, Vashon had more representation in the 14 weight classes than any other school. That fact alone required coach Dave Chapman to shave his signature beard. The clean-shaven Chapman only appears when a Vashon grappler makes the state finals.
There were 49 1A schools represented in the competition. The Pirate squad was comprised of six wrestlers. Perpetual 1A powerhouse and regional champion Castle Rock, who beat Vashon last week, sent 13. The four wrestlers who made it to day two of the tournament earned enough points to best all 13 Castle Rock participants. The irony was not lost on the large and vocal Vashon crowd in attendance at the dome.
Also representing Vashon was junior Joe Coller, who made his third trip to the state event. Coller gamely wrestled in the 285-pound weight class, taking on tough competition from Zillah and Freeman before getting edged out. Sophomore Clyde Pruett made his first trip to the Tacoma Dome, having the unfortunate first draw of last year’s state champion and losing 0-15. Pruett lost his second match to senior Andy Madsen of South Whidbey, 4-10. Both pirates gained valuable experience and look to be back next year.
Wickman, who wrestles year-round, took on fellow sophomore Stuey Rasar of Blaine to win his first match, crushing him in a technical fall, 19-4. Next up was senior Jesus Dominguez of Warden, with Wickman taking the win 7-4. The third match was pivotal — and a nail-biting grind. With numerous stalemates called throughout the match, it was a back and forth hang-on-fest. Wickman persevered with a close 2-0 win. The final pitted Wickman against David Peterson, a junior from Highland who finished second at State last year. The score was 4-3 at the end of round two, but after that Wickman never looked back, taking the top of the podium with a final score of 7-3.
Armstrong, who finished third at state last year, made it to the finals for the first time and wrestled through a very tough 170-pound weight class. His first match against Anthony Louthan of Montesano was a rematch of last year’s state battle for third and fourth. It was an old-fashioned, upper-body tie-up kind of match complete with headgear and shoelace issues. The score was knotted at 1 to start round three. He scored a takedown with seconds to go for the 3-1 win. Next up was Darrin Miller of Royal — a sophomore who appears to be Royal’s version of Wickman. In a crazy match marked by stall points and technical violations, Armstrong took the breathtaking overtime win, 8-6. His third match was a breath of fresh air as it appeared Armstrong had eaten his Wheaties; he pinned Blaine’s Tristan Hunter in round two. The final against senior Tom Odneal of Ilwaco was a rematch of the previous week’s regional final. The score was a close 5-3 at the end of round two, but Armstrong ended up on the short end of a 4-10 loss.
Morris survived a near-fall scare late in the third round of his first match against Cade Wallace of Quincy to take an 8-7 win. He handily defeated sophomore Matt Bartlett of Royal in his second match, 7-0. The third match brawl against John Rawley, a senior from Tonasket was a nail-biter. Morris was up 3-0 at the end of rounds one and two, but gave up 3 points to have the score tied at the end of regulation time. With a textbook take down, Morris won 5-3 in overtime. He faced senior Dom Nakano, a fireplug from Tenino in his final match. The score was 0-0 at the end of round one, and he scored first with a takedown in the second. The score was tied 2-2 at the end of round two. Morris was behind 2-3 with one minute to go, before it all slipped away with a final score of 2-7.
Jovanovich, always tough in the 285-pound bracket, gets a nod for match of the day for his first bout against Gavin Brumley of Naches Valley. Trailing 2-11 with one minute to go, he abruptly eggrolled Brumley to win with a pin. The crowd went wild; his mom cried, and Jovanovich summed it up best when afterward he said, “I am very happy.”
He lost his second match to Mikey Antczak of Blaine, then turned around and won his third match against Payton Smetana of Freeman with a pin. Saturday morning’s loss to Jake Claussen of Forks put him in the bout for seventh and eighth place. Oddly enough, it was a rematch against Brumley from round one. This time Brumley bested him, but he walked out of his final state competition with his first medal.
Coach Anders Blomgren summed up the season, “I’m so proud of all our guys with their resiliency, courage and adjustments they made in redeeming losses. We all trained together, battled together and celebrated by tossing our dirt off the ferry. Shane and Preston set their stamp on our program, helping to lead the new era of Vashon wrestling with a top 10 team placement and modeling hard work and ego-ess good character values. One of my most enjoyable years ever! Such a pleasure every day with these guys.”
— Cheryl Pruett is the mother of two Vashon wrestlers.