Ben Gore isn’t haunted by the state semifinal match his sophomore year. It was a valuable lesson learned.
If he hadn’t lost that match, Gore could be attempting to join the elite fraternity of four-time state champions, and maybe get a poster of himself in the Orting High School wrestling room next to Orting’s other four-timers — Drew Templeman and Fred Green.
There have been 16 four-time state champions in WIAA history (13 boys and three girls).
But Gore fell in the 132-pound semifinals that season — a rare blemish in a wrestling career that includes a 120-pound title as a freshman and a 145-pound title last year.
“I had never felt like that before,” Gore said. “It was a shot through the heart.
“But it really told me that I wasn’t putting in my time to improve. I had started just wrestling to survive.”
It woke him up.
Gore enters the 2A Region III championships on Friday at Fife High School aiming to earn his fourth consecutive trip to the Tacoma Dome for Mat Classic, and he’s seeking to end the season as the sixth Orting wrestler to win three state titles — joining Templeman, Green, Tony Farrington, Garrett Mann and Taylor Meeks.
I felt unstoppable. It kind of humbled me losing in that semifinals. I was like, ‘I haven’t been working hard enough.’ I thought I could trust in my skill over my hard work.
Orting wrestler Ben Gore
Jody Coleman has been Gore’s coach since the seventh grade — transitioning to Orting High’s coach when Gore entered his freshman year.
About midway through Gore’s freshman year, Coleman began to see traits that would make the lanky Gore a state champion.
“I knew he was going to win, and I didn’t feel bad about saying it to anyone,” Coleman said. “He had all the technique and stuff, but I think he started believing in himself and started to get an attitude and a chip on his shoulder.
“I remember going into the Tacoma Dome and telling an official friend of mine, ‘Hey, watch Ben. He’s going to win it.’ I just knew it.”
But there’s an adage in high school wrestling that the toughest state title is the second one. Gore became the hunted instead of the hunter.
“I felt unstoppable,” Gore said. “It kind of humbled me losing in that semifinals. I was like, ‘I haven’t been working hard enough.’ I thought I could trust in my skill over my hard work.”
He lost, 11-9, to Tumwater’s Eric Schmidt.
“I think he was looking one match ahead,” Coleman said. “Because that kid had no business beating him. But it happens.”
Coleman could sense Gore was mentally distraught. So the coach motivated him by saying that Orting had a shot at the team title if Gore could rebound and finish in third.
Gore won his next two matches to take third place, and Orting finished third as a team behind Deer Park and Sedro-Woolley.
“I think he was just saying it at the time (that Orting was still in the team title hunt),” Gore said. “But I can really appreciate that now because I had to get over my own loss to help the team.”
Gore, who is 24-6 this year, and his older brother, Beau, have advanced to six state semifinal matches. Beau placed second as a senior and a junior and fourth as a sophomore at Orting.
They got into wrestling because of their uncles — Dave, Jonny and Joey Hess, who all wrestled at Auburn High School. Dave Hess won the 129-pound AAA title in 1992.
He’s separated himself from other team captains we’ve had. He’s punctual ... he gets kids going, he runs them through warm-ups, he talks to kids individually. Not a lot of my other captains would seek kids out to tell them what to do, and Ben does that.
Orting coach Jody Coleman
Joey Hess, who wrestled against Coleman when the coach was an athlete at Bethel High School, placed third in his senior year in 1996, and Auburn won the state team title. Hess went on to wrestle at West Point. That inspired Ben Gore to want to wrestle at the Coast Guard Academy next year.
Coleman said he’s most impressed by Gore’s leadership. So much so, that there’s an “Avengers” poster in Orting’s wrestling room and Coleman superimposed Gore’s face onto Captain America’s.
“He’s separated himself from other team captains we’ve had,” Coleman said. “He’s punctual ... he gets kids going, he runs them through warm-ups, he talks to kids individually. Not a lot of my other captains would seek kids out to tell them what to do, and Ben does that.”
Gore said he learned much of his leadership traits from Green, who now wrestles at Boise State and was Gore’s wrestling partner for two years. Austin Spader has since taken over as Gore’s wrestling partner in the past two years.
“He puts in a lot of work,” Spader said of Gore. “On and off the mat.”
Something Gore learned because of his only postseason loss.
And having a poster for three state titles would be pretty sweet — even if it’s not a four-timer poster. Eighty-four wrestlers in WIAA history have won at least three state titles.
“That loss doesn’t really haunt me — though it did at first,” Gore said. “Every time I came into the practice room and started slacking or talking with friends, one of our coaches would say, ‘Remember, Gore?’ And I do and it hurts. So that motivates me.”
TJ Cotterill: 253-597-8677