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4 Vashon wrestlers bring home hardware from state tournament
For senior Sam Chapman, the climax to his 15-year wrestling career hinged on the last 10 seconds of the championship match for the state 112-pound title on Saturday.
Locked in a 5-5 tie with J.P. Martinez of Warden, Chapman cleared Martinez’s hands for a one-point escape with three seconds left to win a 6-5 decision and first place.
This is just one of the exciting matches that took place on Friday and Saturday during the Mat Classic XXII State Wrestling Tournament at the Tacoma Dome. The Mat Classic featured more than 1,200 of the best Washington high school wrestlers representing more than 250 schools. The wrestling action was nonstop for the thousands of cheering fans because the 24 wrestling mats in the Tacoma Dome were running simultaneously throughout the tournament until the final round.
Chapman is no stranger to these championships because this was his third consecutive final. He won the 103-pound title as a sophomore, finished second at 112 pounds last year and won again this year.
“It feels amazing to be back as champion,” said Chapman. This accomplishment makes Chapman the fifth Pirate in Vashon Wrestling’s storied history to win two state titles.
Vashon sent seven wrestlers to the state tournament, and four placed. The Pirate boys’ team finished 12th out of all 1A teams with 51 points.
“This has been one of the most gratifying seasons yet,” said head coach Anders Blomgren. “These wrestlers far exceeded the expectations of the coaches.”
Geran Webb joined the elite group of Vashon wrestlers who have been three-time state placers when he earned fourth place at 215 pounds. In the quarterfinal, Webb faced Jordan Valasco of Omak, who was 33-0 on the season.
Webb “did everything he needed to do and did everything right,” Blomgren said. Even so, Valasco eked out a 3-0 win. Webb demonstrated his tenacity because after only 45-minutes’ rest, he pinned his next opponent. Blomgren praised co-captain Webb as “one of the best leaders the wrestling program has ever had.”
Junior Madeleine Wolczko also became a three-time placer when she earned fifth place at 119 pounds in the all-classifications girls’ tournament. Blomgren said he saw real improvement in Wolczko’s ability against the athletic and competitive girls who now are entering girls’ wrestling.
“It all came together for her at the state tournament,” Blomgren said.
After Wolczko lost her first match in overtime, “she demonstrated real heart and personal courage as she won the next four out of five matches,” Blomgren said.
Participating in her second state tournament, sophomore Iris Spring won her first match 10-4. Then Spring stayed even with Shay Workman of Kelso through most of the quarterfinal, but lost to the eventual second-place winner. Blomgren credited Spring’s rapid improvement to her work ethic and vigorous off-season training. Overall, the Vashon girls’ team finished 39th of 90 teams.
A burgeoning “young star was born at the tournament” in eighth-place winner Dominik Stemer, according to Blomgren. After losing in the quarterfinal to the eventual 140-pound champion, Stemer found himself two points down at the start of the third period against Kris Rice of Royal. “I thought of all of the drills and sprints I had done all season,” said Stemer. “I had worked too hard to let Rice steal this match from me.” Stemer pinned Rice 45 seconds into the third period to guarantee a medal finish.
In Elliot Ellingsen’s first 160-pound match, his opponent tied the score at the buzzer. Ellingsen hung on through triple overtime for the win. Blomgren thought Ellingsen “learned that he could be a great wrestler” by securing this win at his first state tourney.
Vince Jovanovich’s first match was against Gary Sumerlin of Lake Roosevelt, a wrestler who entered the tournament ranked second at 285 pounds. Blomgren noted how Jovanovich “was not intimidated on the mat by anyone.”
Looking ahead to next season, the team returns five state qualifiers and boasts a group of rapidly developing young wrestlers.
Blomgren foresees many new faces participating in the state tournament next year.
Rival coaches would not question this admirable goal. As Brent Barnes, head coach of 4A Lake Stevens, observed, “the Vashon coaches are the most creative wrestling coaches in the state.”
— Marian Easton is the mother of Pirate wrestler Robert Easton.