Right before the district meet last season in his junior year at Peninsula High, Seth Wahto tore his right shoulder in a wrestling match, forcing him to miss the postseason and a chance at making some noise at the Class 3A state wrestling meet at the Tacoma Dome.
“It was a bummer,” Wahto said. “It was pretty much one-fourth of my high school career gone.”
It took months of physical therapy to rehabilitate the torn shoulder.
“I didn’t really notice it at first,” Wahto said. “It just got worse and worse.”
According to Peninsula assistant coach Gary Griffin, it was a learning moment for Wahto.
“Him tearing his shoulder up was from him taking breaks in matches,” Griffin said. “He kind of reaped what he sowed there. He understood that you can’t take things for granted. Things aren’t just given to you. He had a pretty good season last year up to that point. So this year, every week he’s wrestling someone who has finished in the top four in state and is finding himself in those tight matches. I think he’s just getting battled tested for the postseason.”
Now, Wahto has a new perspective. He’s more confident and focused in his senior season.
“You’ve just got to be confident in yourself,” Wahto said. “That’s what my coach had talked about all season — just being able to know that I can do it. I’m at the top of my game right now. I just have to believe in myself, go out there and believe I can dominate the match.”
It showed last Thursday night, when Wahto was matched up against one of Gig Harbor’s best in the 152-pound class in John Bittinger. Wahto dominated early, and while Bittinger fought back toward the end of the match, Wahto hung on until the end, securing the win by decision.
“I just have respect for (Bittinger),” Wahto said. “Even winning in the beginning, there’s a lot of respect in wrestling. I can beat you but there’s still that chance. You can think you’re on top but he comes back and this isn’t over — he’s still got it in him.”
Griffin said Wahto is seeing some of the area’s best wrestlers as he prepares for a postseason run.
“(Bittinger) is good,” Griffin said. “He’s not wrestling an inexperienced kid. He hung on there. I’d like to see him finish with a little more energy. He’s getting tested every week we go out. That’s not an easy weight class to be in. I wanted him to find their best guy and see how it goes. It went well tonight.”