Driven to succeed

Washougal wrestlers strive for improvement

Washougal wrestling rosters

Boys: Ruben Aguilar, Taylor Leifsen, Urich Reyes, Mason Locke, AJ Christianson, Jonathan Varner, James West, Dylan Kiemele, Nick Wolfe, John Gable, Marcos Martinez, Bryce Allyn, Dylan Cherry, Cameron McElhaney, Hayden Golphenee, Tanner Klopman, Tanner Lees, Andrew Hopple, Donavin Henson, Kell Turcotte, Hunter MacPhail, Michael Hickey, Aaron Douglas, Ryan Stevens, Nathan Tofell, Blake Webb, Charles Hendrik, Brandon Sauer, Zach Collins, Hunter VanDaam, Dakota Andelman, Jeffrey Wells, Warren Henderson, Dante Grimani, Tristan Elliott, Mason Meyer, Jason Powell and Mason Armstrong.

Girls: Morgan Ratcliff, Abby Lees, Baylee Wright, Christina Murray, Mialisa Oster, Signe Zacho, Brooklyn Wurm-wertz, Samantha Eakins, Jaden Robb, Mikah Bartel, Sarahann Oster, Madison Johnson and Jenna Beaver.

The first high school wrestling tournaments of the season wrapped up Saturday, and the Washougal Panthers are already adding more championship medals to the mantle.

Abby Lees, the defending 155-pound girls state champion, won the Jump On In tournament, in Yelm. She pinned Yelm’s Paxton Moon and Kalama’s Dakota Moon to reach the finals. Lees then defeated Todd Beamer’s Haillie Parker 4-2 for a first-place medal.

The Washougal boys finished in third place out of 16 teams at a tournament in Estacada, Oregon. Sophomore Tanner Klopman captured a championship medal at 113 pounds. Seniors and team captains Taylor Leifsen (152 pounds) and Ruben Aguilar (195) secured second-place medals. Sophomore Tanner Lees took third place at 138 pounds. Juniors Nick Wolfe and John Grable earned hard fought fifth-place finishes.

“It was rewarding seeing three wrestlers in the finals of our first tournament of the season,” said head coach John Carver.

Down 12-0 in the final round, Grable gained a victory for the ages. Carver said Grable used his riding skills, strength and determination to force his opponent into a cradle.

“Once Grable got his hands locked up, our smiling motocross rider with phenominal strength ended the Sandy wrestler’s hopes and won by pin,” Carver said.

As a team, Washougal rallied from a 21-6 deficit to defeat Skyview 42-36 Thursday. Aguilar, Leifsen, Tanner Lees, Wolfe, AJ Christianson, Jason Powell and Dylan Kiemele earned the seven pin fall victories for the Panthers.

“It felt good to know that we’re on the right track,” Aguilar said.

Aguilar, Christianson, Leifsen, Mason Locke and Urich Reyes have been a part of the Washougal wrestling program for four seasons. As seniors, they feel the drive to succeed.

“I want to know that I wrestled to the best of my ability and pushed even further than that,” Aguilar said. “Every time, it’s my last match. Make everything count.”

Aguilar, Leifsen and girls team captain Morgan Ratcliff encourage the Panthers to leave everything they have on the mat everyday.

“My best advice, always push yourself. Push yourself in conditioning and push yourself in live matches,” Ratcliff said. “One of the best things I can say about wrestling is, it comes slow. But once you get it, it hits you like a rock. You’re a totally different wrestler.”

Ratcliff, Abby Lees, Mialisa Oster and Baylee Wright reached the girls state tournament last season. They hope to form a strong state team with senior Christina Murray, junior Signe Zacho, a foreign exchange student from Denmark, and sophomores Samantha Eakins and Jaden Robb.

Although she is already a high school state and a freestyle national champion, Abby Lees has a lot to wrestle for this winter.

“That’s one goal checked off. It just made me have to make up another goal to defend my title and help my team take first,” she said. “I had my chance to shine. Now, I just want them to feel like I did.”

Washougal girls head coach Heather Carver said that statement comes from Lees’ heart.

“She sees the potential to help others. At the same time, we have to push her to another level. This year is going to be even harder,” Carver said. “The pressure is there. It’s the animal in the room. What Abby has to do is just wrestle hard every day and try to ignore the animal. Hopefully, at the end of the day, the animal is in her and she unleashes the beast.”

Taylor Leifsen has one more season to chase his uncle, Lee Leifsen, who finished in fourth place at state for the Washougal state championship team of 2001.

“I would like to place third, and be the best Leifsen wrestler in Washougal,” Taylor Leifsen said. “It would be great to win league back-to-back. Everybody is in here for the same goal, to represent, improve and see how far everybody can go.”