The sight of Decatur High’s Nick Karis is striking. He is a bundle of well-defined muscles – with Popeye arms and thick legs that serve as hulking anchors on the wrestling mat.
Karis uses his strength aggressively. He is light on his feet and his attack is lightning quick – like a sneaky alligator ready to ambush an unsuspecting deer.
He is the kind of attacking force longtime Gators coach Mike Bressler admires.
“He came into our wrestling club as a seventh-grader,” Bressler said. “I saw him out of the corner of my eye, and his balance was just incredible. Over the years, he has just developed into a powerful, quick, athletic kid with an offensive style.”
Remind you of someone, coach? Say a son of yours?
“Yeah,” said the 16-year Decatur coach, his tone turning fatherly. “Kyle (Bressler, a two-time state champion) was like that.
Jason (Bressler, a multiple-time state placer) was like that. They were that offensive.”
Karis, after his Class 3A Region II victory over Enumclaw’s Falani Gill in the 170-pound final, is 36-1. His lone loss came in the semifinals of the Tri-State tournament in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, when he lost to Central Valley’s Chandler Rogers, a two-time state 4A champion.
And Karis, one of the 14 selected to The News Tribune’s All-Area wrestling team, appears the likeliest of a talented group of Decatur seniors to break through Saturday and win a 3A title at Mat Classic XV. He was the state runner-up at 160 a season ago.
Bressler knows if it all breaks right, the Gators could also factor in the 3A team race, chasing down co-favorites University and Enumclaw.
“I’ve wanted them all to be responsible for this, and they all have their uniqueness ... and provide leadership in their own way,” Bressler said. “Nick and (Rowland) Gaydosh are just tougher than nails. Spencer (Smith) is vocal and with (Kyle) Gleed, having a big, tough heavyweight is great.”
At the center of the Gators’ quest is the memory of a beloved teammate. Seventeen months ago, Robert “Hurricane” Harris drowned.
Karis was especially close to Harris. They met in the wrestling room in middle school. They were training partners. And they were buds.
“He had the nicest (wrestling) shot,” Karis said. “He could get takedowns over and over. He was the best ever on his feet.”
In the fall of 2011, Harris was at a family barbecue on Lake Tapps. Diving into the lake going after a football, the teenager never resurfaced. Emergency-aid workers discovered his body almost an hour later.
“It was such a shock,” Bressler said. “In hindsight, it probably brought these kids together at an earlier time. It was devastating for them. They loved him.
“They have gone through a lot of work, a lot of effort and a lot of ups and downs. They have had success, but they have had to take a solid look at themselves and see how much they’ve wanted to push through.”
THE NEWS TRIBUNE’s 2012-13 ALL-AREA WRESTLING TEAM
106: Spencer Schroeder, sr., Graham-Kapowsin (28-10)
113: Fred Green, so., Orting (33-1)
120: Andrew Ramirez, so., Lakes (41-2)
126: Colton Tracy, jr., Bonney Lake (31-5)
132: Cameron Nolan, sr., Tumwater (25-7)
138: Dillon Harris, sr., Yelm (29-3)
145: Ian Steen, sr., Graham-Kapowsin (35-3)
152: Casey Larson, sr., Peninsula (32-5)
160: A.J. Atoigue, sr., Sumner (38-1)
170: Nick Karis, sr., Decatur (36-1)
182: Chili Sabin, sr., Bonney Lake (36-2)
195: Jake Ferris, sr., Wilson (30-1)
220: Stone Hart, sr., Timberline (30-0)
285: Edwin Torres, sr., Tahoma (28-6)
Coach of the year
Lee Reichert, Enumclaw
Todd Milles: 253-597-8442 firstname.lastname@example.org blogs.thenewstribune.com/preps @ManyHatsMilles