A total of 672 high school wrestlers in six different classifications feel pretty good waking up Saturday morning. They survived to see the second day of Mat Classic 27 , the state high school wrestling championships.
None feel quite as super as Curtis High’s Patrick Wheeler, the Vikings’ second-stringer in Class 4A’s 113-pound weight division.
In his first trip to the Mat Classic, all the sophomore did was pin returning state champion Jesse Torres, of Sunnyside, in 1 minute, 10 seconds into the opening round.
And if somebody was supposed to pinch Wheeler by the time the afternoon session began Friday — well, nobody did because he pinned another top seed in the quarterfinals — this time South Kitsap’s Deion Anderson in 1:21.
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Afterward, if Wheeler was wide-eyed about any aspect of a fully packed Tacoma Dome, it wasn’t the names he sent down in order. It was something far bigger.
“The chaos,” Wheeler said. “There are people everywhere. It is pretty cool.”
It is safe to say Mountain View’s Brandon Huft — Wheeler’s semifinal opponent Saturday morning — will be ready for the Curtis wrestler’s signature head-and-arm move.
A huge favorite, Torres charged in and immediately got caught in it 40 seconds into the match. And Wheeler — the son of longtime former Bethel coach Bill Wheeler — kept squeezing, until he finally subdued the reigning state 113 champion.
“He fought on his back for quite a while,” Wheeler said. “It felt like forever.”
Against Anderson, Wheeler was quickly taken down. But as he got out of the hold, he turned the tide immediately with the same move — and the same result.
“One of my coaches told me who I had (just beaten),” Wheeler said. “I don’t really care. A lot of people want to figure out who they wrestle, but like I said, I don’t care.”
Regardless of what happens to Wheeler on Saturday, this could be the start of something really good at Curtis with coach Jason Baril, a former All-American at Central Washington University who was voted the Region I coach of the year.
Of the seven wrestlers the Vikings brought to the state championships, none are seniors.
“We have a great youth program the Wheelers have raised up,” Baril said.
Of course, Baril said it will be fun to be in Wheeler’s corner for the rest of this tournament. He is one of the most popular guys on the team.
“Not too shabby, huh?” Baril said. “He beat a state champion and a No. 1 seed. Hopefully he keeps the mojo going.”