Mat Classic Preview: Cardinal's quest
Not long ago, Orting High’s Drew Templeman was bitingly hailed as “5-2 Drew.”
The moniker for this gangly, lightweight wrestler from East Pierce County was both revealing and sort of unflattering. Even though he controlled most of his wrestling matches, the nickname indicated he was one slip-up away from spoiling the outcome.
“Maybe ‘9-2 Drew,’ I think,” Templeman said. “I have moved up in the world.”
The Orting senior will never be that throw-you-on-your-back, quick-pin type of combatant. Flash is not his style.
But if an opponent can’t take the 126-pounder down, does it really matter how the victories pile up for the University of Wyoming-bound standout – who is one of six “Untouchables” selected by The News Tribune in previewing the state championships at Mat Classic XXIV?
“Anybody that knows wrestling, they can say they are close matches. But the only thing close about them is the score,” Orting High coach Mike Sowards said. “Nobody gets deep on him in a shot. When he gets points scored on him, it is him giving (opponents) points on an escape. He usually beats the heck out of a guy for six minutes. It is domination. It is how college wrestling is.”
Training for the future started on 2 acres of thick brush on the outskirts of the Templeman home in Buckley.
Early on, all the cousins – Drew and his younger brother, Bryce, and the Maris brothers Brady and Shannon – would scramble around a course in the raspberry bushes to see who would claim bragging rights.
“I probably took a few elbows,” Shannon Maris said, “and gave some, too.”
The athletic legacy of the Maris family – in particular siblings Jerry, Joanne and Andy – has been in running.
Jerry, the father of Brady and Shannon, was an All-America distance runner at the University of Colorado in the 1980s. Andy captured five Class 3A state titles in cross country and track and field at White River High School from 1988-90 before heading off to Oregon and Portland State.
And Joanne – Drew’s mother – was an All-America runner at Pacific Lutheran University in the early 1990s before winning the Sound to Narrows women’s 12-kilometer race a record six times.
Even Shannon, who is on the Orting wrestling team with Drew, has traveled to the U.S. Cycling Championships for his age group four times, and attended camps at the U.S. Olympic Training Center.
“The Maris family is crazy
with (cardiovascular) training,” Drew said. “There is no such thing as getting tired.”
Because of his diminutive size, Drew Templeman found wrestling a good fit. It was the sport his father, Steve, grew up participating in at Lake Stevens High School and at PLU. But it took Drew some time to fully commit.
In 2003, when he was 10 years old, his parents gave him a choice to stay in wrestling or adopt a dog. He decided on a rat terrier – Monroe.
“Used to hate wrestling,” Templeman said. “Got burned out by it.”
Mike Meeks, the coach for the Orting junior program, keenly encouraged Templeman to remain with the team as a leader, not a wrestler. The strategy worked. Halfway into the season, Templeman rejoined the lineup.
And he has been there ever since. He has been to 20 national tournaments in his career – and placed in all of them. And in high school, he has won Class 1A state titles at 112 (2009), 119 (2010) and 125 (last season), while taking on the best competition regardless of classification.
“I thought I could be a good runner, but it wasn’t fun or interesting enough,” he said. “Wrestling is more hard core for me.”
Heading into his final weekend, with a chance to join the elite four-title-winner fraternity, how will Templeman be regarded around the state?
Comparisons to past greats are staggering. Sowards said his wrestler reminds him of former Richland High standout Thomas Yamamoto (1987-90), a savvy technician whose bid to become the state’s first four-time champion was stopped in a controversial 115 quarterfinal match against Everett’s James Stephens.
Per-Lars Blomgren, a former NAIA All-American at Simon Fraser, is a Vashon High assistant who knows Templeman from four years of coaching against him in the Nisqually League. Blomgren compared him to John Taylor, the current coach at W.F. West High, who is one of the few ever from the state to win a Junior Nationals freestyle championship.
“Drew is not someone who is going to blast through you,” Blomgren said. “But he is someone who is going to take you apart.”
Templeman might not have the aura of intimidation of a Burke Barnes from Lake Stevens (four time 4A champion from 1999-2002) or University High’s Tommy Owen (three-time champion from 1998-2001) or Auburn Riverside’s Michael Mangrum (2006-08). And he sees why that is.
“They are more of a force,” Templeman said. “I slide by people.”
That is not to say he can’t be a bulldozing presence when he wants to be. A couple of summers ago, Templeman went up to Lake Stevens to train with Barnes, who was 25 at the time.
“Burke thinks he is way better than what you ever see,” said Brent Barnes, the Lakes Stevens coach and Burke’s father. “And he is a way, way better athlete than he shows sometimes.
“Drew is a workman who gets the job done where some kids want to put on a show.”
Today, the last journey begins to where Templeman hopes a happy ending awaits him Saturday night – becoming the ninth wrestler to win four state championships. Then it is off to college, where many coaches think his style fits better.
“It would be pretty cool,” he said. “It is something I have always strived for. I have done pretty much everything you can put your body through.”
Todd Milles: 253-597-8442 email@example.com