Bonney Lake High School senior wrestler Jeremy Sabin’s hands and feet earned him a nickname that has stuck with him since he was a tot.
When Sabin’s mom would feel his cold hands and feet pressed up against her after picking him up as a baby, she’d playfully tell her bubbling son how “chilly” he was.
“I’d just start giggling and laughing,” Sabin recalled of his reaction.
Folks around school now know him as “Chili” Sabin.
Now a chiseled, 6-foot, 182-pound teenager, those same appendages have Sabin on the verge of becoming the sixth individual state champion — and first in his weight class — in school history.
Currently with a 32-0 record and ranked No. 1 at 182 pounds in Class 3A, Sabin is part of The News Tribune’s All-Area wrestling team for 2013-14.
His latest win came in the finals of the Region III tournament, where he pinned second-ranked Wyley Stewart of Enumclaw in 57 seconds. He enters this weekend’s Mat Classic XXVI at the Tacoma Dome as one of the top seeds.
After losing a 6-5 decision in last year’s 182-pound state championship match to Glacier Peak’s Sean Elledge, Sabin has wrestled nearly nonstop in an effort to get another shot at a title.
“Obviously, I’ve been more motivated,” said Sabin, who finished third at state in the 160-pound class as a sophomore.
After the close loss to Elledge, Sabin dove in headfirst on the freestyle circuit with Team Aggression, out of Puyallup, winning a state freestyle tournament and wrapping up titles at a few other local tournaments.
“That kind of stuff helped me stay in touch with it,” the senior said. “When I came around (this year), I was already better than I was at state (last season).”
Sabin also packed his schedule this season, even wrestling — and defeating — a high school competitor from Japan, who came to the Northwest as part of tour group composed of the country’s best high school wrestlers.
The many hours of mat time have physically helped mold Sabin into an unstoppable force, but it’s his feel in the ring that has taken him to the top of the rankings.
“He’s extremely calculated in terms of how he approaches his match,” said Bonney Lake coach Anthony Clarke, who’s led the program since the school’s opening in 2005. “He’s very methodical in how he’s able to anticipate the small windows of opportunity for him to make his move.”
That means constantly staying one step ahead of his opponent — no matter the score.
“Chili knows where he is at all times on the mat,” Decatur High coach Mike Bressler said. “Really what that means is that he has experience, which makes him comfortable in all situations. He is technically strong in all phases of wrestling: on his feet, on the bottom and on top.”
That comfort and confidence often allows Sabin to dictate the pace of the match.
“I stay focused on pushing the tempo, staying on offense and being aware of all the situations that are going on,” Sabin said.
Sabin’s stellar season has piqued interest from several colleges lately, but with dreams of becoming a dentist, he isn’t sure if wrestling at the next level is in the cards. But he hasn’t made a decision yet.
“There is always a possibility, I guess,” he said with a grin.
MAT CLASSIC XXVI/WIAA STATE WRESTLING CHAMPIONSHIPS
Friday-Saturday, Tacoma Dome
2013 state team champions: 4A – Lake Stevens. 3A – University. 2A – Othello. 1A – Granger. 1B/2B – Liberty Bell. Girls – Warden.
Returning local state champions: 4A – Matt Voss, Puyallup (220 pounds). 2A – Fred Green, Orting (113; now at 126); Monike Sarte, Fife (285). Girls – Arian Carpio, Beamer (112; now at 124); Jordyn Bartelson, Puyallup (118); KC Moulden, Enumclaw (235).
Schedule: Friday – Session I (first round) is from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Session II (quarterfinals/consolation round) is from 4-9:30 p.m. Saturday – Session III (semifinals/state-placing round) is from 10 a.m.-2:15 p.m. Championship finals are scheduled for 5 p.m.
Scouting report: 4A – For the past three years, Lake Stevens (2011, 2013) and Tahoma (2012) have traded owning the state team title. Joining them in the lead group are Union (eight regional champions, 11 state participants) and Moses Lake (three regional champions, 10 state participants) – with Yelm (three regional champions, 10 state participants) lurking. Lake Stevens does have Noah Cuzzetto, a transfer from Edmonds-Woodway, gunning for his third 4A title, this time at 132 pounds With former Mead three-time champion Chandler Rogers now in Oklahoma for his senior season, that leaves Woodinville’s Ryan Christensen as not only the best wrestler in 4A, but also the entire state. He is the favorite to repeat at 182. ... Puyallup’s Voss is on a 76-match winning streak.
3A – If University ends up defending this weekend, it can thank two families – the Beards and Orrinos. Bryson and Blake Beard, and Braeden and Colton Orrino make up four of the Titans’ five regional champions. They bring seven wrestlers to state. ... 3A SPSL champion Decatur advances 11 wrestlers to Mat Classic, including eight regional finalists. The Gators placed a school-best second last year in 3A behind the Titans. Sunnyside certainly has the star power to challenge, led by returning state champions Homer Romero (113) and Jesse Barajas (120).
2A – Remember when nobody could dent Sedro-Woolley’s title run from 2002-07 in 3A? Well, this might be the start of that school’s run in a lower classification. The Cubs are deep, bringing 11 state participants, all of whom are threats to earn medals. Orting emerged from a battle-tested 2A SPSL to win the regional title last weekend. The Cardinals crowned five regional winners, including junior Green (126), a two-time state champion. Colville edged defending state champion Othello for the regional title last weekend. Both have enough firepower to make a run. For a fourth consecutive year at Mat Classic, a wrestler will be going for four state championships. This time it is Kingston’s Bobby Reece, who can become the 12th in state history (10 boys, 1 girl) to do so. He is in the 170-pound class.
1A – Looking for a favorite, just look east. Nine-time state champion Warden won the Region III title, followed closely by Zillah and defending 1A champion Granger. All three schools are bringing a pair of regional champions. Blaine is the west side’s best hopeful, bringing four regional winners among 14 wrestlers who qualified for Mat Classic.
1B/2B – Can anyone stop Liberty Bell’s bid for a second consecutive state title? The Mountain Lions send five wrestlers ranked No. 1 in their respective weight class, led by defending state champions Trent Skelton and Justin McMillan.
Girls – Seven defending champions return, including two-time winner Ryan Gibbons, of Centralia (190). Top-ranked Puyallup was upended last week in regionals by Lakes but has a pair of standouts in Haley Franich (106) and Bartelson (118).
Tickets: Single day is $8 for adults, $6 for students/senior citizens. Tournament passes are $13 for adults, $10 for students/senior citizens.