For the past 26 years Washougal High School’s (WHS) wrestling program has sent at least one wrestler to Mat Classic, and this year both the Panthers’ boys and girls teams plan to have wrestlers at the Tacoma Dome once again.
The WHS boys team, coached by John Carver, returns 10 grapplers who advanced to the 2A state tournament last season. The Panthers will be led by senior co-captains Scott Lees and Korben Modoc, state tournament veterans who both have some unfinished business at this year’s Mat Classic. Last season Lees advanced to the 138-pound title match, where he lost to Gabe Hawthorne of White River High School.
“I’m hoping to win the state title this year because last year I came up a bit short,” said Lees, who comes from Washougal’s most prestigious wrestling family. His older brother Tanner won a state title two years ago, and his sister Abby left WHS with two state titles.
Modoc, at 195 pounds, lost in the consolation round at Mat Classic last season, but is focused on improving his skills this season.
“Wrestling has taught me how to keep my drive going and stay focused on the bigger picture,” he said.
Carver is pleased to have so many wrestlers turning out and feels the program has a lot of talent to work with this season.
“The coaching staff is excited to see the growth of our state veterans from last season and is equally excited to see new talent develop,” he said.
Panthers girls loaded with experience
Ten WHS girls wrestlers competed at Mat Classic last season, and all 10 of them return for the 2019-20 campaign.
Senior captains Aleksi Donahue and Joselyn Ortiz are looking to improve on their state tournament performance from last season. Donahue won her first match in the 120-pound bracket but did not qualify for the final round.
“I’m really hoping to make it to the second day at state,” she said. “Obviously I want to be a state champion and that’s everyone’s goal, so you have to battle hard.”
Ortiz, who lost her first match in the 130-pound bracket at Mat Classic last season, said she’s thrilled to see so many new girls in the program.
“I think the new girls we have now are real rumblers, and I think we are going to place higher than last year,” she said.
Senior Emily Eakins missed a state trophy by just one match in the 235-pound bracket last season, but is recovering from an injury and hopes to return to the Panthers’ roster by midseason.
Sophomore Lacey Klopman, who wrestled at 140 pounds last year, felt a bit overwhelmed in the massive expanse of the Tacoma Dome, but now knows exactly what to expect.
“This year I feel I will do well, and I have my girls to help me,” she said. “I know what it’s like up there now.”
Junior Melina Aguilar, who lost her first state tournament match at 130 pounds last season, is also goal-setting for a run in the postseason.
The girls are coached by Heather Carver, who said that many of her young wrestlers attended a summer camp in Pasco and have been gaining confidence day by day in the WHS wrestling room.
“They are a hard-working bunch and have a great desire to learn technique,” Heather Carver said.