Pat Connors was the first high school wrestler to win four state championships in Washington, a feat that Dalton Young could match on Saturday.
That accomplishment has become more commonplace since Connors first did it at R.A. Long High School in 1994 — 10 of the 16 wrestlers who have won four titles were crowned since 2010 — but Young’s fourth title would take it to another level.
If Young, from Lakeside of Nine Mile Falls High School, just northwest of Spokane, wins his four Class 1A matches in the 138-pound bracket this weekend in the Tacoma Dome, he will finish with a 170-0 record.
That’s right, undefeated. For his entire high school career.
“I first met Dalton from our (Washington) Intensive summer camps when he was going into eighth grade,” Nine Mile Falls coach Brad Perry said. “He was the camp champion out of 450 kids, and he weighed 90 pounds at the time. He was the hardest worker there. I knew then he was going to be special.”
Those who know him, and those who know wrestling, say Young has three qualities — self-motivation, competitiveness and the will to win — that make him what he hopes to be:
An undefeated champion.
“Anytime you can string something like this together, it means something,” Young said.
Never mind Young makes a habit of being in the wrestling room at 6 a.m. drilling with teammates; he has established another early-morning “buzz” around town.
During his sophomore year, Young started his own lawn-care business. He saved enough money to purchase a 16-foot trailer to haul around a rider mower, a push mower and an industrial trimmer, among other tools.
“It was something me and a buddy started,” Young said. “I’ve got 10-12 lawns I consistently service a year. And this year, it will be just me, so I will do a lot more of the work.”
Young said he learned a lot about being disciplined and self-motivation from his parents at an early age.
“I did chores around the house, and they were always getting on me doing homework,” Young said. “After a while, it just became a part of me. And I’ve always had that entrepreneurial spirit.”
Equally important are his studies. He maintains a 4.0 grade-point average in Advanced Placement classes, a big reason he was able to get into Stanford University on a wrestling scholarship to pursue a business degree.
Troy Hughes, the former Eagles wrestling coach who is now an assistant principal at Lakeside-Nine Mile Falls, also has a lasting memory of Young from one of the Washington Intensive summer camps.
It came at an earlier age. Young and his younger brother, Lane, showed up in the Eagles’ wrestling room on the mezzanine level of the gymnasium ready to go.
To get all the boys’ the competitive juices flowing, Hughes asked them to line up and sit against the back wall to see how long they could maintain that position.
“Every one of them was was out in four minutes,” Hughes said. “And there sat Dalton for 20 minutes. We finally had to call it off.”
It’s not just wrestling where Young wants to be the best, it’s anything.
“I quit playing checkers with him when he was 4 or 5,” said Daniel Young, Dalton’s father.
Former Vashon High School standout Chase Wickman won three Class 1A state titles, and was Young’s training partner on the Washington State Dual Meet Team in the offseason.
So Wickman has spent plenty of time with Young, on and off the mat.
“This one time, we were in a hotel room after dual-team practice,” Wickman said. “And he tells me to throw him a banana from across the room. So I peeled it, threw it and he caught it with his mouth. I mean, he dove on the bed to catch it.
“That is what I call an NCAA Division I athlete.”
A knack for winning
Young has wrestled 166 times in high school and won them all. But they haven’t all been easy.
Seventeen of those matches have been decided by three points or fewer. He has been taken to overtime twice — once during his ninth-grade year (he won 3-1 over Snohomish’s Wyatt Butler) and once during his sophomore year (he won 3-2 over Mount Spokane’s Alec Hoover).
His most difficult moment came in this year’s 138-pound finals of the prestigious Tri-State tournament at North Idaho College.
In an attempt to become the third wrestler in the tournament’s history to win four championships, Young faced Lakeland (Idaho) standout Larry Johnson in the last match.
Johnson scored a takedown with 40 seconds remaining to take a 4-3 lead. It was the first time in Young’s career that he trailed in the third period.
“Seeing him control almost every match he’s wrestled from start to finish, you kind of get used to that,” Perry said. “But then all of a sudden, you don’t really know sitting in the corner if he was in control anymore (against Johnson).”
Twenty-five seconds later, the two wrestlers got locked in a scramble. Young flipped the position and scored a reversal. He rode out his opponent the final seconds to secure a 5-4 comeback victory.
“To win (Tri-State) four times, that was a big deal to me,” Young said. “It had been a goal of mine for a while.”
A month later, Young defending his 132-pound title at the Rollie Lane Invitational in Nampa, Idaho.
Yet, Young’s streak has been criticized because his unblemished record has been against mostly 1A competition. His response: He wrestles who comes to the mat.
“I will wrestle you,” Young said. “And I wrestle with a chip on my shoulder, especially being from a 1A school. Critics have asked how would this differ if I was at a higher classification. Honestly, I don’t think it would change.”
Perry said if his star goes to 170-0 on Saturday, he thinks the teenager would also become the first ever in Washington to win 170 matches in high school.
“Being undefeated is a byproduct of him wanting to chase the toughest competition and win championships at the toughest tournaments,” Perry said. “That is what he’s done.”