Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Mat Classic this weekend brings back memories

By Kshell

Throughout the state of Washington in several gyms ranging from Seattle to Spokane, to Aberdeen to Longview wrestlers completed their last practice of the season today in their gym. Today is the last day wrestlers who fought to qualify for state will practice in their practice rooms. On Thursday they'll get one practice at the Tacoma Dome then on Friday the quest for a state championship shall begin. The Washington state tournament is unique in that this is the only state wrestling tournament in the country that has all qualifications under one roof. With the Tacoma Dome getting up there in age who knows how many more years we'll be able to say that. For now it's great as my high school is in 2A while my old college roomate's school is 4A so for now I can watch my old school and watch his kids. In this following post I'll talk about my memories from what I've gathered over the years of watching state and talk about how my current school is sending 11 kids to state the most in over 30 years!

First I remember going to state when I was in eighth grade. At the time I had never wrestled in my life before. I went to see my cousin wrestle who had basically wrestled his whole life and it was his Senior year to that point he had only lost once. My cousin made one mistake that match and cost him five points. He ended up losing by a score of 5-3. My cousin would bounce back and take third at state. Although that didn't involve me I'll always remember that night. I was up there with my dad and two uncles and of course my cousins dad as well so in all one aunt, three uncles and my dad. I never thought in a million years one year later I would be wrestling. At that time I wasn't interested in wrestling and only went because my cousin was wrestling.

The following year at the football awards banquet the R.A.Long wrestling coach Darrin Dollemore aproached me about wrestling. I kindly told him no thanks that isn't my sport. The following weeks I kept being called in to the principal's office(I had never been before in my life) and each time Dollemore was there asking me to wrestle. In a small town people find out who you are related to pretty quickly. So tired of being bothered and my uncle was the assistent coach at the time I decided I would wrestle. I would say that is one of my best decisions of my life. Like I do with everything I've ever done when I do something I let it become my life. Well the first two years at R.A.Long we were a struggling program going 3-8 my freshman year. For me being a first year wrestler I won just three matches the whole year. As a team for the first time in our coaches career nobody went to state as well. My sophomore year was a get over the hump year for my and my team. That year I finished 9-8 to record a winning season which was a big deal considering the year before. I finished that year finishing second place at a J.V. tournament that had a 12 man bracket. My team went 8-8 which was the first non losing season for my head coach in his fourth year there. Due to some unfortunate things outside the mat we would once again have nobody at state.

Then my Junior year came which saw more progress happen. As a team we finished with a winning record and defeated our cross town rival Mark Morris for the first time in 10 years. I also cracked through the varsity lineup that year in spot duty. I struggled big time individually that year so that was frustrating but gaining the varisty experience helped me the following year. That year we finally had someone make it to state which was and is a good friend of mine. I went up Saturday with my dad to watch him wrestle. He would end up upsetting a returning state finalist by pinning him. He would eventually take fourth at state. I remember trying to vision myself at the Dome the following season. My friend who took fourth by the way is an assistent coach for my old school and was one of many college roommates I had at the party of 805.

Then my Senior year finally arrived. I had put in all the work in the offseason to make this my year. I was cutting down to 103's, benching 155 and had 5.5% body fat at the time. I was primed for a big year unfortunately so were other kids in my same city. I ended falling a match shy of going to state which shattered my hopes and dreams. In my area alone there was a state champion at Kelso, then at Mark Morris they had a fifth and a sixth(I'm in the black and the guy who took sixth is in the red on the left) at state guys as well. I still went up to state that year which I'll admit was tough but I wanted to support a fellow classmate who I had gone to elementry school with. My friend like the year before took fourth at state. I was really happy for him as he defeated this kid who had beat him in the district and regional finals. As I left the Dome I was happy for my friend but disappointed I'll never have the opportunity to wrestle there on the 24 mats on day one and 12 mats on day two.

The following two years I was in college but for wrestling weekend I would go watch state. In 2005 these two brothers placed at state. The oldest one took fourth while the younger one took seventh. Then in 2006 they switched the younger one took fourth while the older one took seventh. In 2005 after watching state I just came home to visit my friends and family. In 2006 because I had came home the week before I just went straight back to Ellensburg. I remember on the drive home listening to the Washington Huskies basketball team destroy the Oregon State Beavers. Both years I left the dome thinking what if? How would have I wrestled under the dome lights. Not going to state used to bother me a lot. Then in the last year or so I realized going to state, placing or even being just J.V. my senior year wouldn't have changed my life in any way. Wrestling doesn't define who I am today. I wish I had known that at 18 years old so I wouldn't have put so much stress and pressure on myself and my body from cutting at times 10 pounds in a span of 24 hours.

This Friday you'll see 16 wrestlers in each weight class in four different classifications all going towards one goal which is to be called a state champion. For some kids this weekend they have already achieved their goals, for others the goal is to at least place and for a select few the goal is state championship or bust. The wrestling tournament is a two day tournament if you win two matches on Friday you will place and survive to see another day. If you lose two matches your season will end that Friday night. The sad truth is 50% of the wrestlers on Friday will not make it to Saturday and 75% of the wrestlers will have a loss. At the state tournament I'll look forward to seeing several friends I made at Central Washington and root for all their kids. I hope the best for my former school R.A.Long who has 11 kids going to state. I will root for all the local kids as well this Saturday. I love seeing state champions come from this area even if they are my rival schools. No such thing as rivalries at the dome I always root for my league to represent.

So much emotion from the winners and sadness from the losing wrestler. So much joy from the state champion and so much heartbreak from the kid who finished second place. For all the Seniors win or lose the finality of it all hits home as well. You'll never see a place full of tough guys have so much tears fall but at wrestling state you have it all. You have kids thrilled to take seventh at state while kids who take second are disappointed. Coaches who are all fired up to get as many kids to place as they can and hopefully even coach a state champion. At the time this seems like the holy grail for all wrestlers in high school and coaches to be part of a state championship. Some will achieve their goals this weekend while others will ultimately fail and think it's the end of the world for them.

This weekend is a special weekend for all the wrestlers and the coaches in this tournament. This weekend also isn't the end of the world either. The journey to where you arrive is more important than the final result itself. Whether you go 0-2 BBQ or win a state championship that may seem like a huge deal at the time but that shouldn't define your life one way or the other. What is most important is the competition itself and the good memories that one gains from such an experience. The friendships that you have gained with your teammates and relationships you have made with your coaches should be priority #1. So yes placing at state and for those lucky enough to win state is great but it's not the most important thing in the world.

All in all I've come to grips on not going to state. I love the sport of wrestling and wish I had appreciated my four years more as they were going on. I was too caught up in results such as going to state instead of sitting back and enjoying the journey. Unlike some people who didn't go to state I can go to the Tacoma Dome this weekend with no regrets. I love the sport of wrestling and I'm very excited to see how my friends do this weekend with their kids at state. The state tournament is my favorite event to see which is why I have no problem missing the Washington Huskies at Arizona Wildcats game to watch the tournament. I'm also content finally that I did my best I could do and made several great friends. I still have a friendship with my former head coach Darrin Dollemore and get to watch my old college roommate coach at R.A.Long as well. It was a special year for R.A.Long and regardless of what happens this weekend the kids should appreciate what they have done along with the coaches. At the end of the day it doesn't matter what happens this weekend. Just remember the journey to the Dome is the fun part. The end results are just extra icing on the cake but does not define who you are. None of the kids will realize that now but someday this will all make sense. Good luck to all the wrestlers this weekend and great job coaches if you have any kids at the state tournament!

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