Panthers pin down win against Columbia River

Washougal's Xander Romo wins by fall in the 285 pound division against Caeden Craig from Columbia River High School. At 230 pounds, Romo feels his quickness helps against larger wrestlers.

Washougal Panthers' team captain, senior Jason Powell, goes for a pin against Spencer Little from Columbia River. Powell went to state last season and hopes to bring home a trophy this season.

In Washougal, you know it is varsity wrestling time when the gymnasium lights suddenly turn off, replaced by a single light hanging over the mat.

The indoor, seasonal light show quickly got a large Washougal crowd roaring for the Panther’s first home dual meet of the season against the Columbia River Chieftains on Dec. 12. The Panther boys wrestling team took care of business, beating the Chieftains 48-29.

Heavyweight senior Xander Romo got things started with a quick pin in the first round over the Chieftains’ Caeden Craig.

“What I was doing was waiting until he got in deep and sunk in,” Romo said after the match. “So, basically, I was just setting him up for a hip toss, where I get my arm behind him and throw him back on his back.”

Romo weighs about 225, but wrestles opponents weighing up to 285 pounds. He says he could drop to 220 if he wanted to, but feels he has an advantage against larger opponents with his quickness.

The Dec. 12 match was payback time for Washougal sophomore Jonathan Wells, who went up against Rocky Hanes in the 120-pound division. Hanes had knocked Wells out of sub-districts last season, costing the Washougal Panther a trip to the state tournament. On Dec. 12, Wells pinned Hanes in the second round.

“It felt good. I think the difference was better conditioning, which kept me strong the entire match,” Wells said.

That conditioning came from long-distance running: Wells competed for the Panthers at the state cross-country championships.

Washougal junior Cole Pass beat the Chieftains’ Reuben Bisagna with a pin, after taking Bisagna down with a double leg move.

“I got him on the bottom, where he was real frisky, so I had to stick to his hips and ride him like a bull for the pin,” Pass said.

Washougal’s co-captain, senior Jason Powell, returning from last season’s trip to state, also won his opening home match.

“My goal this season is to start with intensity and keep it all the way through the match, not easing up one bit,” Powell said.

Scott Lees, a junior at Washougal High, is a favorite to represent Washougal at state this season. Lee’s older brother, Tanner, won the state championship last season during his senior year. The younger Lees won a tough, three-round battle against Miguel Fuentes in the 145-pound weight class.

“I battled hard, he battled hard back. It was a fight, and I learned you can’t just rush everything. You have to be patient,” Lees said.

Washougal junior Gus Shelley continued his winning ways with a fast first-round pin over Luke Hongel.

“We work hard in practice and it shows up right here on the mat,” Shelley said.

Panthers travel to Bremerton for Hammerhead Invitational

On Saturday, Dec. 15, the Panthers boys and girls wrestlers traveled to Bremerton, Washington, to compete in the Hammerhead Invitational tournament against some of the top wrestling teams from all Washington Interscholastic Activities Association (WIAA) brackets.

On the girls’ side, Washougal’s Aleksi Donahue won first place in the 125-pound division, winning by fall (pin) with 3:13 left in the championship match over Riley Guerrero from Sunnyside High School. Jenna Beaver, of Washougal, captured sixth place in the 135-pound division.

On the boys’ side, Scott Lees finished in fifth place in the 138-pound division. The annual tournament featured wrestlers from 87 schools.