Jackson Mills has wrestled in the 106-pound weight division his entire high school career.
That’s not to say every time the Tumwater senior stepped on a scale over the past four years it read a buck-six.
“I was maybe 75 pounds as a freshman,” Mills said, “85 as a sophomore and right around 100 last year as a junior. This is the first time I’ve ever been exactly the weight I’m wrestling in.”
No longer surrendering 20 to 30 pounds, Mills appeared right at home in the weight division, pinning all three of his opponents to successfully defend his title at the Pat Alexander Invitational Wrestling Tournament on Saturday at Tumwater High School.
Mills was one of three Thunderbirds to claim division titles as Tumwater won the team title with 170 points.
Joining Mills as divisional champions were teammates Cameron Nolan (132 pounds) and Jose Jimenez (220).
White River finished second with 134.5 points, while Camas was third with 123 points.
Both Black Hills and North Thurston had two champions. Mason Adams (113) and Spencer Gurrad (160) won individual titles for the Wolves, while Marcus Ulloth (152) and Jake Grantham (195) captured crowns for the Rams.
Grantham joined Mills and Nolan as back-to-back champions at the event.
Mills breezed through his bracket en route to his second consecutive title, pinning all three opponents, including a 55-second pin over Max Grimes of Camas in the final.
The three wins on the day actually surpassed his win total during his entire freshman campaign.
“It was rough. I think I won two matches my freshman year,” Mills said. “I just kept working, trying to improve every year. It’s nice knowing when I step out onto the mat this year no one’s going to be that much bigger or stronger than me. It definitely helps with the confidence.”
Fellow senior Nolan, who placed fourth at the Class 2A state tournament last season in the 132-pound division, looked equally impressive in his final, scoring a 5-0 victory over W.F. West’s Ty Burk.
Jimenez claimed his title in similar fashion, shutting out Lindbergh’s Trevonn Russell, 8-0.
Jimenez, who was also a starting defensive lineman for the T-Birds in football, has made a seamless transition from football to wrestling. He also won the prestigious Sedro-Woolley tournament six days after Tumwater lost in the 2A state football championships to Lynden.
“It’s not easy going from one sport to the next,” said Jimenez, a state alternate last season as a junior. “I love competing. I just love being out there. This tournament means a lot because it’s in our building. We have all our friends and family here cheering us on. Every Tumwater wrestler wants to win here.”
Grantham, a junior, defeated Olympia’s Tanner Hartsoch in the 195-pound final.
Grantham finished fourth as a sophomore at the 2A state tournament last season. The Rams have made the jump to the 3A classification this season, but Grantham hasn’t missed a beat, improving to 7-1.
Teammate Ulloth upped his record to 11-0, pinning White River’s Brandon Short at the 5:49 mark in the final.
The see-saw match was knotted up at 8 late in the third round before Ulloth parlayed a reversal into a pinfall with 11 ticks remaining in the clock.
Gurrad also remained undefeated by pinning Dakota Safford of Camas (4:49) in the 160-pound final.