Cementing tradition

Panther wrestlers sink their teeth into a third league title

The Washougal High School wrestling class of 2016 made history by becoming the first group in the program’s history to win three league championships over a four-year span.

Seniors Ruben Aguilar, Urich Reyes, AJ Christianson and Taylor Leifsen all got their hands raised to help the Panthers chop the Lumberjacks 48-29 Thursday, at R.A. Long High School.

“We always talk about how winning is our tradition. Tonight, we cemented that,” Reyes said. “This is something that will keep us connected forever.”

Aguilar earned a victory by forfeit. Reyes and Leifsen pinned their opponents in the first round. Christianson won 4-0.

“I can’t think of a better group of wrestlers to compete with,” Leifsen said. “I’ll remember these guys for the rest of my life. They’re family to me now.”

“I feel so close to every single one of these guys. I know what they’re thinking every second of the match,” Christianson said. “The bond we have is something you can never take away.”

Tanner Klopman captured the wildest victory for Washougal. The sophomore fought back from a 4-0 deficit in the first round to take a 5-4 lead in the second go round. His opponent tied the score at 5-5 heading into the last two minutes. Klopman wound up on his back with time running out, but the Panther turned the table on the Lumberjack and pinned him before the final buzzer sounded.

Tristan Elliott and Tanner Lees secured pin fall victories for Washougal. Michael Hickey won 6-1, and Dakota Andelman earned a forfeit.

The Panthers won all of their league matches to clinch the title for the second year in a row. Washougal also won league in 2013 and settled for second place in 2014.

“I’m proud to be a part of this group,” Aguilar said. “I can’t wait to come back and watch these young guys win a league title in their senior year. When we’re gone, they have to pave the way. It’s their time to shine.”

The Washougal boys and girls wrestling teams compete in their respective sub-regional tournaments Saturday, Feb. 7, at Ridgefield High School.

“I hope we all wrestle with determination and intensity,” Aguilar said. “Just leave it all on the mat, come out on top and get your hand raised … with a medal.”