With an opponent’s arm in one hand, Todd Beamer High School’s Mitchell Owens went airborne, and braced for a rough landing.
Crashing chest-first on the rubbery wrestling mat never felt so satisfying.
Of the 14 champions crowned at the sixth annual all-classification South Puget Sound League Tournament on Saturday at Auburn High School, none were celebrated as loudly as Owens.
For all he has been through, he was certainly the tournament’s sentimental favorite.
The last time he was on the mat was nearly 18 months ago during a summer freestyle tournament. During a match, he suffered a right knee injury so serious, it required surgery — and he missed all of the 2013-14 high school season.
Cleared to return for the Titans’ football team during the summer, another injury struck. In the third game against Kent-Meridian High School, a teammate rolled up on his leg, and he broke his right foot.
“Thought I was done for another whole season,” Owens said. “I was devastated.”
The surgeon who operated on Owens’ foot gave him a “50-50 chance” of being able to return for any of his junior wrestling season.
But he received an early Christmas present three weeks ago — his foot had healed, and he was cleared to start working out again in the Beamer wrestling room.
The all-SPSL championships were his first tournament of the season. After shedding some early rust, he was able to get underneath Jefferson’s Heng Yon in the 170-pound finals and throw him to the mat.
With one second left, Owens got the pin — and all the excitement, especially from his father Todd Owens, who has coached wrestling at Kent-Meridian for more than 25 years.
“My teammates were so excited to see me on the mat,” said Mitchell Owens, who finished fifth in the 4A state championships in the 160-pound class in 2013. “And I am happy to be back.”
• Orting’s Fred Green, a three-time 2A state champion, cruised to a 15-0 technical fall over Rogers’ Troy Wilson in the 145 finals.
Dominating the match from the outset, Green did find himself in a precarious situation in the second round — he was stuck in a cradle move. Except the Boise State signee has no such issues being in that position, because he knows how to counter it.
And he did, reversing the position to put Wilson in a cradle for the final points to end the match.
“It is a comfortable position for me,” Green said. “In two years, nobody has been able to (pin) me in it.”
• Speaking of the Wilson twins at Rogers, when one loses, the other usually wins.
After watching Troy Wilson lose to Green at 145, Ty Wilson posted a dominating effort in the 152 title match, pinning Peninsula’s Zach Goddard in 2 minutes, 20 seconds.
Both brothers play on the Rogers’ water polo team in the fall to get in shape for wrestling.
“There is a lot of wrestling going on under the water,” Ty Wilson said. “A lot of hand-fighting.”
• Tahoma — which won back-to-back 4A state titles in 2011-12, placed second in 2013 and fifth last season — has now won all six all-SPSL team titles.
Behind individual titles from sophomore Nick Whitehead (120) and senior Adam Hokenson (195), the Bears tallied 229 points — well ahead of second-place Auburn (192).
Whitehead defeated Auburn’s Drew Aplin, 3-0, in the 120 finals. Hokenson stopped Bethel’s Eli TeuTeu, 15-9, in the 195 title match.
• In the most tension-filled championship match, Graham-Kapowsin’s Corde Ferreira outlasted Kent-Meridian’s Jahleel Smith, 11-7, to win the 138 title. After heavy action carried past the buzzer to end the second round, Ferreira gave Smith a shove — and that cost him a penalty point. But the Eagles senior scored three takedowns in the final period to earn the victory.