Two Prairie High School wrestlers were named state champions in their respective weight divisions at the 2022 Mat Classic in Tacoma on Saturday, Feb. 19.
Alex Ford, a junior, and Faith Tarrant, a freshman, took first in the boys 3A 160-pound division and the girls 235-pound division, respectively.
“I feel awesome,” said Coach Rob Smith about his grapplers’ accomplishments. “We haven’t had a boys (state) champion since Jay Rogers won it in 1987, and we’ve never had a girls champion, so Faith is the first.”
According to Smith, Tarrant pinned all of her opponents in the tournament and won an overtime match at the end, while Ford won by pin.
Prairie High School wrestlers Yana Paskar placed eighth in the girls 145-pound division, Kennedy Wilcox (125) placed seventh, and Lucas Lyle (120) placed seventh. Smith said the three grapplers “battled through some pretty tough brackets and came out with a medal.”
He said that there were 15 students from Prairie High School who qualified for the state tournament, with 11 boys and four girls. Multiple freshmen qualified for the Mat Classic finals, which Smith said he was proud of as well.
“(The wrestlers are) very hard working,” Smith said. “Very determined and very focused on their goals. They put in the work and the time to perfect their skills so that they can place in the state tournament. They’re just good kids. I ask them to work and they work. They don’t argue with me, they know what they need to do, and they know what they want to get when they’re done.”
Since a number of younger wrestlers qualified for the state tournament, Smith has high expectations for next year as 10 of the 15 wrestlers are set to return next year.
“I’m really looking forward to seeing an experienced team coming back who know where they want to be and have goals to work every day to get to a state championship,” he said.
As for Battle Ground High School, senior Gunnar Henderson placed fifth at the Mat Classic in the boys 4A 145-pound division. Owen Wann, a junior, won a match but did not place in finals, while freshman Sonia Rogers made it to the state championship but did not make it to finals.
With how heavily COVID-19 has impacted schools and sports, Battle Ground High School Coach Karl Johnson said they’re trying desperately to “rebuild.”
“During COVID, Battle Ground has been through a few coaches that left,” said Johnson.
That was coupled up with “a weird spring season,” which was shut down for two weeks in December and required wrestlers to get tested three times a week.
“It’s been a huge burden on the teams,” Johnson said. “Gunnar (Henderson) is one of the hardest-working wrestlers I’ve ever seen, but it’s been hard to get matches in front of him because of COVID.”
He also believes that the sport changes the kids beyond just learning to wrestle. It teaches them self-control, technique, and conditioning, among other things.
“To work so hard and then to lose, that’s hard. To work so hard and to win, and to overcome adversity, these are huge life lessons,” Johnson said. “You can look at the greatest senators and people in corporate America, and they all wrestled. As a teacher, I’ve seen a lot of bad things happen, and I will tell you that my goal as a wrestling coach is to get the kids into something that will change their lives beyond winning a match.”
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