Like a couple of Panthers, Taylor Leifsen and Tanner Klopman creeped into the Washougal River Rumble and pounced on championship medals Saturday.
Leifsen pinned Hockinson’s Garrett Elgin and Woodland’s Randall Hansen in the first two rounds. He also defeated Skyview’s Jackson Sayler 14-0 and R.A. Long’s David Jimenez 6-1 to become the 152-pound champion.
“After taking third and second in previous years, it feels good to finally get first in my senior year,” Leifsen said. “I’m working hard, staying focused and keeping my eye on the prize. One step at a time.”
After a first-round bye, Klopman pinned Goldendale’s Caleb Foster and Fort Vancouver’s Justin Miller to get to the 113-pound championship match. There, Klopman beat Hockinson’s Kai Blue 13-2 to finish in first place.
“It feels really good to support Washougal, the time our coaches put in to train us, and all the hard work we do in here,” Klopman said. “It’s just one big family that we have.”
Urich Reyes and Nick Wolfe also reached the championship round for the Panthers and settled for second place.
Reyes beat Centralia’s Mykka McAllister 4-2 in overtime. The WHS senior then pinned La Center’s Corey Huddleston to secure a spot in the finals.
“To make it to the finals of my last big tournament at home means a lot,” Reyes said. “I want to get to a point where my wrestling game is just perfect. Just keep training hard.”
Wolfe pinned Kyu-Dong Lim, of King’s Way Christian, in the first round. The WHS junior also beat Kalama’s Colby Hutchinson 10-0 and Hudson’s Bay’s Jon McMillan 5-0 to advance to the finals.
“We have a solid lineup of strong wrestlers who work hard for it,” Wolfe said. “I want to get to state. I was one place away last year. I want to wrestle there.”
AJ Christianson and Hunter MacPhail won their consolation finals matches for third place. Ruben Aguilar finished in fourth place. Tanner Lees and Michael Hickey earned fifth place. Mason Locke, John Grable, Andrew Hopple and Dylan Kiemele claimed sixth place.
Washougal scored 147 points to finish in second place in the team standings. Kalama won the 19-school tournament with 152 points.
“I wish we could have placed first instead of second, but it’s still good. We’re still learning,” Leifsen said. “The guys defended our home turf and wrestled hard. I hope that reflects when we try to win league again.”
Washougal wrestles its first league duel at Woodland Thursday. Varsity matches begin at 7 p.m.
“Our goal is to win a second league title in a row,” Reyes said. “I’ve trained with these guys for so long. We’re hoping as a team, and as individuals, to place at state and make it all worth it.”
The varsity team heads to the Grandview Invitational Saturday, while the girls and the junior varsity teams enter the Kelso Invitational.
Hockinson, Mark Morris and Ridgefield come to town Tuesday, Jan. 12, for a double duel. These matches start at 6 p.m., at Washougal High School.
Leifsen challenges his teammates to make the most of every day to prepare for the long road of wrestling ahead.
“Push yourselves and stay focused in everything you do in school and sports,” he said. “It will reflect on the mat, all the hard work that you do.”