A Camas High wrestler has repeated his state championship title, winning best in his weight class at the 4A state wrestling tournament in Tacoma on Feb. 16.
Tanner Craig, a senior at Camas who is headed to the prestigious West Point Military Academy after graduation, finished his high school wrestling career on a high last week, repeating as the best wrestler in his 138-pound weight class.
The win, against Tahoma High’s Steele Starren, happened in overtime.
“It was getting tight, but I know I have a better gas tank than anyone I wrestle,” Craig said. “I was ready and more than happy to go into overtime to win it.”
The state wrestling meet came after a tumultuous week of snowy weather that threw a wrench in the annual Mat Classic at the Tacoma Dome on Feb 15 and Feb. 16.
After regional tournaments throughout the state were cancelled due to inclement weather, the wrestling tournament organizers expanded the event from its usual 16-man brackets to 32-man brackets.
Doubling the number of athletes at the state tournament led to a standing-room-only crowd inside the Tacoma Dome throughout the weekend.
“It’s been a lot of fun,” said Camas senior Dustin Hubbard, who also won two matches in his first trip to state and just missed bringing home a trophy. “I really like wrestling in front of so many people.”
Craig and Hubbard weren’t the only Camas wrestlers who thrived at the crowded venue. The entire Papermaker wrestling team exceeded expectations, with four wrestlers making it to the finals.
“It was awesome,” said coach Cory Vom Baur. “This is an emotional high right now, and a highlight as a coach I might not ever see again.”
Camas senior Gideon Malychewski, who entered the tournament ranked No. 1 in the state at 170 pounds, proved the experts right and became a champion with a third-round pin in the title match against Devon Neal from Curtis High School on Saturday, Feb 16.
Last year, Craig wrestled at 132 pounds, but this season he took on the challenge of moving up one weight class, which allowed his teammate, Jack Latimer, to wrestle in the 132-pound class. Latimer made it all the way to the title round at this year’s state tournament, joining Craig, Malychewski and Colby Stoller, who rallied in his 195-pound weight class, giving Camas a pure sweep in the semifinals.
Stoller’s road to the final match included a grueling semifinal match that went into overtime and was stopped multiple times because both wrestlers were fighting bloody noses.
“We both had ‘blood time,’ and it was a good match,” Stoller said.
Both Stoller, a junior at Camas High, and Latimer, a senior at Camas, earned second-place trophies at state. Both wrestlers gave the credit to the Papermakers’ coaching staff.
“They put so much time and effort into us,” Stoller said of his coaches. “I think, even though I wasn’t seeded, the coaches’ preparation pushed us all to the next level.”
The Camas boys finished as the fifth-best wrestling team in the 4A classification. The Camas girls did not advance at the state tournament.
Washougal wrestlers suffer ‘St. Valentine’s massacre’
As the Camas boys shined at the state wrestling tournament, the 25 boys and girls from the Washougal wrestling team struggled on the tourney’s opening day on Feb. 14.
The Valentine’s Day heartbreak, which Washougal wrestling coaches now refer to as the “St. Valentine’s massacre,” saw 16 of the team’s 25 athletes eliminated on that first long day of 2A state tournament wrestling, which began at 6 a.m. for the wrestlers and didn’t end until they returned to their hotel rooms at 10 p.m.
“Many shots, also known as takedowns in the sport of wrestling, came our way that we didn’t defend,” Washougal head boys wrestling coach John Carver said of the devastating losses on Feb. 14.
Washougal High junior Scott Lees, who wrestled for the Panthers at 138 pounds, was the single bright spot for the Washougal boys team, as he grappled his way to the final match and finished in second place, losing to an opponent from White River.
On the girls side, the Panthers’ Emily Eakins, a junior at Washougal High, was on a roll as the day began, beating several competitors she’d lost to earlier in the season. In the end, however, a close decision kept Eakins one position short of getting a trophy.
“I felt a little scared coming into the tournament, but I was confident I was going to win a few,” Eakens said.
Heather Carver, the Washougal girls wrestling head coach, said she is already looking forward to next year.
“We got pretty much our entire field eliminated because of silly mistakes,” Carver said, adding that, although some wrestlers have a tough time erasing the “dome shock” that comes when wrestlers have never competed inside the Tacoma Dome, there’s never a good excuse for not wrestling your best.
While the Panthers didn’t reach their goals this season, the 32-man brackets gave several young Washougal wrestlers some unexpected Tacoma Dome experience, which should pay benefits next season, according to coach John Carver.
“Even though we suffered losses, that experience will be invaluable next year because now they’ve all been here and know what it takes to wrestle in the dome,” he said.