Erin Locke and Morgan Ratcliff wrestled each other like they would any day in Washougal.
There just happened to be fans from all over Clark County watching them under the lights at Mountain View High School, Saturday.
“It’s always hard wrestling your teammate,” Locke said. “Right off the whistle, I could see her trying not to smile. I tried not to make eye contact with her. But in the end, it’s all good.”
What the fans also saw was an elite performance by 11 Panthers. Locke, Ratcliff, Yaneli Martinez, Jessica Eakins, Emily Alder-Storm, Baliee Wright, Christina Murray, Romney Kellogg, Abby Lees, Jessica Biron and Katelyn Purkeypyle reached the final round of the Clark County tournament. Martinez, Locke, Murray, Lees, Biron and Purkeypyle became county champions, but all of the Panthers worked together to win the team title by more than 100 points.
“What I enjoy most about Clark County is the team aspect,” Locke said. “All the points I score are for my team. We are all working toward that goal of being Clark County champions.”
Martinez and Biron became champions without having to wrestle a match. Eakins, Alder-Storm, Wright, Ratcliff and Kellogg came up short in their championship quests, but all five of them went down fighting. Locke pinned Ratcliff in the second round. Murray defeated Mountain View’s Keiana Tocalino in overtime. Lees and Purkeypyle both pinned their opponents.
“Even though we came here with the most wrestlers, our mindset was to prove that we have the best wrestlers,” said head coach Heather Carver. “We wanted to show the fans that we have the skill, the heart and the determination to win. I think we did that tonight.”
Murray won one of the most exciting matches of the night. She battled back from two points down twice in the third round to force overtime. There, she took Tocalino down for a the 10-8 victory.
“I feel really proud, especially since the girl I wrestled beat me already,” Murray said. “The team is so supportive. Win or lose, I’m proud to be a part of it.”
Lees locked Skyview’s Haley Horricks in a pin to win the 155-pound championship for Washougal. Not bad for a freshman who was scared out of her mind.
“I guess this means I don’t have to be so nervous,” Lees said. “It doesn’t matter how old you are out there. It matters how hard you work.”
After losing in the championship round last season, Purkeypyle had been waiting a whole year for redemption. She got it when she pinned Mountain View’s Madelyn Weyer for the 190-pound title.
“I just wasn’t going to let her take me down,” Purkeypyle said. “This is the best feeling in the world. I’ve been waiting for this match all year. I wasn’t going to let it slip away because I knew I would regret it.”
Purkeypyle had the best seat in the house for the championship round. She watched five of her teammates get their hand raised. And when the time came for her to wrestle, she delivered.
“We all have our own spot on the team. Everyone does their best and tries their hardest,” she said. “When it was my turn, I couldn’t let them down. I had to finish it off strong.”