WHS wrestling off to strong start in pursuit of 9th straight league title

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Washougal 160-pounder Scott Lees presses his opponent from R.A. Long for a first-round pin on Jan. 8 in Washougal. (Wayne Havrelly/Post-Record)

The Washougal boys wrestling team is off to a 2-0 start in 2A Greater St. Helens League competition.

The Panthers, led by coach John Carver, have captured the league championship in the past eight seasons.

“Sure we have eight, but we are looking for nine,” Carver said.

The Panthers opened league competition with wins over Columbia River on Dec. 16 (45-25) and R.A. Long on Jan. 8 (76-6).

Strong senior leadership

Senior captains Scott Lees and Korben Modoc both won their matches with first-round pins against the Lumberjacks.

Korben, who wrestles in the 195-pound weight class, was recovering from the flu, but the illness didn’t slow down his quick performance on the mat.

“I’ve been super sick, so my cardio is terrible,” Modoc said after the match. “Other than that, I’m feeling fine.”

On Jan. 3-4, Modec was only one win from placing at the prestigious Gut Check Tournament. held in Kent, Washington, which featured some of the nation’s top high school wrestling teams, some from as far away as New Jersey.

“He was so close, and was even ahead of the kid he lost to,” Carver said. “He is wrestling with a lot of confidence and a lot of skill on his feet.”

“I’ve placed in every tournament except for Gut Check,” Modoc said. “Right now the bigger picture of this season is starting to fill in really fast. We are hoping to get a whole lot of state participants again this year.”

Lees, who placed second in the 160-pound weight class at the 2A Mat Classic last season, is focused on winning a state title. He lost three matches at the Gut Check tournament, but still managed to climb back and finish eighth in his weight class.

“Scott lost to an Alaska kid and a kid from Seton Catholic and a wrestler from Orting, Washington, who Scott might meet in the postseason,” Carver said. “That experience is going to help Scott meet his goals in the postseason.”

Lees appears to have already learned some valuable lessons from those three losses. On Jan. 11 he won first place at the Hoquiam Invitational, which featured teams from regional schools including Camas, which finished first as a team behind big wins from seniors Gideon Malychewski (182 pounds) and Colby Stoller (220 pounds).

Washougal finished second among the 16 teams.

“I’m just trying to stay in good position and to wrestle smart, not going for big moves that give up points,” Lees said. “I have to stay humble and get those points.”

Another Panthers senior making noise this season is 170-pounder Gus Shelley, who was just one win away from placing at the Gut Check tournament.

“Confidence is what I have this year that I didn’t have last season,” Shelley said.

Washougal girls shine at Kelso Tournament

The Washougal girls wrestling team, led by captains Aleksi Donahue and Josalyn Ortiz, recently placed 10th out of 105 schools at the annual Kelso Girls Tournament on Jan. 11.

Senior Vanessa Brooks was the Panthers’ top finisher, earning a fifth-place medal.

Five other Washougal wrestlers placed in the event, which featured more than 800 wrestlers.

The Panthers hope to qualify several girls for Mat Classic in February.

“They are a hard-working bunch and have a great desire to learn technique,” girls wrestling coach Heather Carver said.