Every so often, a twinkle can been seen in Isaiah Diggs’ eye.
Short but brawny, Diggs is the man among boys in the Decatur High School wrestling room. He is also the school’s only returning state champion competing at this weekend’s Mat Classic XXVII at the Tacoma Dome.
In only his third season of high-level wrestling, Diggs captured the Class 3A 138-pound title with a 7-6 victory over Mountain View’s Kenji Yamashita last season in the championship finals.
“It was a very big moment,” Diggs said. “I felt like I accomplished something.”
That victory certainly opened up some eyes to Diggs’ vast potential in the sport. And he has backed that up by going 37-2 as a senior in the 152 class, claiming another regional crown last weekend and entering this state tournament as a No. 1 seed. He is also one of 14 All-Area wrestlers selected by The News Tribune for 2014-15.
The question is, are enough important eyes watching him - and ultimately ready to offer him a college scholarship?
And that is when that sparkle in Diggs’ eye gives way to a look of concern.
“Very nervous,” Diggs said. “Just hoping and praying.”
It is clear just watching Diggs move around the wrestling mat for six grinding minutes that he is a rare combination of strength, explosiveness and endurance. He is an athlete, plain and simple.
“One of the most gifted athletes I have coached or seen,” said Dan Pitsch, the first-year wrestling coach at Bonney Lake High School who was previously a Decatur assistant under longtime coach Mike Bressler. Pitsch was also an NCAA Division I wrestler at Oregon State.
“He has all the skills that it takes to wrestle at the next level.”
Diggs had played football and basketball longer, but started in wrestling at Illahee Junior High School in Federal Way. Whenever he took the mat, he won.
“Coach Bressler saw me and asked me once I got to high school if I was going to do a real man’s sport,” Diggs said.
As a sophomore at 132, Diggs’ first trip to Mat Classic in 2013 was a successful one. He lost to eventual 3A champion Christian Villani, of Bellevue, in the state quarterfinals, 6-1. After that, he won four consecutive consolation matches to place third.
Last season, Diggs won decisions of 15-2 (over Mountlake Terrace’s Taron Castleton in the first round), 18-6 (over Columbia River’s Connor Thun in the quarterfinals) and 15-5 (over North Central’s Bryan Wais in the semifinals) to set up his close victory over Yamashita.
“Isaiah has come a long ways,” Bressler said. “Unfortunately for him, he has not done a lot of out-of-school wrestling because he plays football. If he was one of those guys who went back to the (Fargo Natiomals) every year, he’d be cream of the crop because he is so athletic. But he is advancing by doing what we are asking, and he is getting better and better.”
Football is still in the picture - and probably should be. Diggs was an all-South Puget Sound League Northwest Division first-teamer, totaling 1,998 all-purpose yards as a receiver, running back and kick returner.
But so is wrestling. Bressler said Arizona State, Oregon State, Newberry College in South Carolina and Grand Canyon University in Arizona have shown lots of recruiting interest in the Decatur standout.
“If school ended today, I wouldn’t know what I was doing or where I was going,” Diggs said. “I am just leaving it in God’s hands. My mom has said whatever God’s will is will happen.”