High School Sports

Charles Wright’s soccer star doesn’t choke under pressure – and not on chicken, either

Billy Chissoe couldn’t recall just one goal to exemplify the goal-scoring brilliance of Nick Iregui. He says you have to take the collection – 90 goals in four years and 71 games of varsity soccer for Charles Wright Academy.

“Real goal scorers – they just have that mentality,” said Chissoe, the former goalkeeper and Oklahoma state player of the year. “Some goals are going to be beautiful, some are going to be ugly. But they are going to find a way because they are always saying, ‘How can I get it done?’ ”

It’s what makes Iregui, who finished with 24 goals and 16 assists in his final season, The News Tribune’s 2017 All-Area boys soccer player of the year.

Iregui can score from distance, he can score with finesse. He can score from the right, the left, into the upper corner or lower corner.

Iregui can even score with Teriyaki chicken lodged into his throat.

Yes, he got it surgically removed … but not before scoring the game-winning goal in overtime on senior night against Charles Wright’s 1A Nisqually League archrival.

“Yeah, I did that,” he said, smiling.

Iregui is allergic to what seems like everything, he said, including pork, beef and dairy. He said he can’t have rice, tomatoes, oranges or anything with gluten.

He believes he must have been exposed to one of them before he ate some Teriyaki chicken about three hours before the Tarriers’ senior night match against Vashon Island, because his throat swelled and the chicken never made it down his esophagus.

Iregui said he could breathe, but he couldn’t throw the food up to dislodge it, and nothing he drank made it past the blockage – so he went the entire match without drinking water, too.

“Coach wouldn’t have let me play if I had told him,” Iregui said. “But it’s senior night, I had all my family and friends coming and it was against Vashon – I had to take one for the team.”

Chissoe said he could tell Iregui was playing more fatigued than normal, so he gave him strategies of how to play to conserve his energy – oblivious that Iregui had yet to swallow his lunch.

Chissoe’s son, Billy, was fouled at the top of the box and Iregui set up for a free kick, the match tied 1-1 in OT.

“Billy comes over and he’s like, ‘Nick, we really need this one.’ A couple of other players are like, ‘Nick, we really need this, this is going to be big time.’ 

The ball zoomed past the wall of defenders and into the bottom left corner of the goal.

Of his 90 career goals, that was Iregui’s favorite.

“The moment we scored, everybody just …” Iregui paused. “That was probably the best feeling I’ve ever had.”

But then he had to go straight to the hospital for an emergency endoscopy. His dad was furious.

Manuel Iregui was a soccer player, too. Born in Colombia, he played there before moving to St. Louis and playing for a semi-pro team there.

That’s where Nick was born before they moved to Gig Harbor when he was 6 years old.

He began playing with Washington Premier as a defender before his coach, former Seattle Sounders player and Thomas Jefferson graduate Wade Webber, subbed him in for the final 10 minutes of a match at forward against one of the top teams in the country.

“For the heck of it he said, ‘Go play forward,’ ” Iregui said. “I scored two minutes later and ever since then I’ve played forward and never looked back.”

Billy Chissoe, son of the Charles Wright coach, and his family moved from North Carolina and he played against Iregui in a club soccer match. He was with Washington Premier and Iregui had switched to Crossfire Premier.

So he has more of an appreciation for getting to play with Iregui instead of trying to figure out how to stop him.

“We played and our team scored two goals, but Nick scored two goals on his own,” Billy Chissoe said. “You can’t replace Nick up front. Normally strikers are viewed as lazy kind of guys, but Nick is a forward who will drop into a center mid role at times. He distributes well, he passes well and he dribbles well and someone with his soccer IQ and hard work makes it easier for everyone else.”

Bill Chissoe didn’t expect to have Iregui at Charles Wright this year. He thought Iregui would join the Crossfire Academy team this spring instead of playing high school ball.

But when Iregui caught wind he’s likely be one of the final additions to the academy team roster off his Crossfire Premier team, he decided he would rather play out his senior year at Charles Wright instead of fighting for spare playing time with Crossfire.

“And coming into my senior year, something I’ve always looked forward to is playing on senior night and having this be my year,” Iregui said.

“I would have loved to do that (play with Crossfire Academy), but I’m glad with the decision I made and I got to know these guys a lot better. This brotherhood will stay with us forever.”

Bill Chissoe thought back to his two years as an all-state keeper in Oklahoma, and some semi-pro soccer with the Oklahoma City Spirit.

Could he have stopping Iregui?

“When I was young, I would have been like, ‘Of course,’ ” Bill Chissoe said. “But I’m sure he would score easy on me.

“I could talk for a long, long, long time about Nick Iregui. He was someone who gave up his energies to play for more than himself. To commit to his teammates and to channel his passion for good and to never let it be a detriment to the team. Just an impressive young man.”

TJ Cotterill: 253-597-8677