Recovering from a grueling, early defeat, Pat Monell had a long time to think about it before his next wrestling match.
Those hours paid huge dividends as Monell quickly pinned his next opponent to stay alive in the state 1A wrestling tournament. South Whidbey High School’s lone representative at the 25th Mat Classic battled his way through the consolation bracket for a sixth-place finish.
Monell, a senior in the 220-pound class, finished his season with three victories and three losses at the state tournament. He was never pinned, even when he lost to eventual first-place Asa Schwartz, a junior at Chelan High School, or Forks junior Joel Ward, the tournament’s top-ranked 220.
“Just to do what he did with one arm, being sick and being underweight is pretty special,” said Falcon head coach Jim Thompson.
“For a while, it looked like he was going to get third the hard way.”
Weighing in around 200 pounds, Monell wrestled opponents up to 20 pounds heavier. Given his route to sixth place lasted six matches in 12 hours, that’s a heavy burden to battle.
After losing his first-round match to Schwartz, 9-3, Monell faced elimination. Had he lost again on the first day, Monell would have missed the second day cut. But he slugged out three more victories in the state’s premier wrestling event. Two of those wins were 3-2 decisions — narrow wins in the wrestling world and even more rare at the state tournament.
To stay in the tournament, Monell pinned Zillah sophomore Alex Diaz in 1:42. Then he finished the first day with a 3-2 win over Kettle Falls senior Tyler Vining.
On the second day of the Mat Classic, Monell opened his quest with a 3-2 victory over Eatonville senior Wyatt Gustason.
A 6-5 quarterfinal loss to Forks junior Joel Ward kept Monell from finishing any higher than fifth place.
If he had won, he would have placed either third or fourth. And Thompson was adamant the referee’s no-call at the end of the match cost Monell his shot at a top-four finish.
“He should have at least gotten one point,” Thompson said. “The kid had no control at that point.”
“When you lose control on top,” he added, “the other guy should get at least one point.”
Losing on a ref’s call was not an excuse for Monell. But it affected him in his final match, the fifth/sixth-place bout. A possible third-place finish was in his grasp, and was seemingly snatched away.
“When you lose a match like that, it takes a lot out of you,” Thompson said.
Nasal congestion and a nagging left shoulder injury also exhausted Monell.
Between matches on the second day, Thompson spotted Monell laying down, gently massaging his left shoulder.
“I could tell he was in pain,” Thompson said. “You never really know how much pain a kid’s in. But when he’s by himself and he’s hurting and nobody’s watching, I could tell it was hurting pretty bad.”
In the final match, Monell lost 5-3 to Mount Baker senior Sterling Honeycutt.
The match had a similar end to the quarterfinal loss, but this time the referee was not implicated in the outcome. Instead, it was Monell who could not secure a pin, despite having Honeycutt on his back near the end of the match.
“The 220 division at 1A was tough from first to seventh (place),” said Thompson, who argued that usually the top two finishers leave the field in their wake.
For Thompson, coaching only one Falcon at the state tournament was a blessing and a curse. All his mat time was spent with Monell. He could devote his attention to Monell’s matches, but lacked a diversion after difficult losses.
“Every egg is in that one basket,” Thompson said. “You feel it so much more when you have so much energy going into one kid there, it makes it worse.”
Through the injury, insult and sixth-place finish at the end of the tournament and the end of South Whidbey’s season, the Falcons’ coach for more than 10 years beamed with pride for Monell.
“He wrestled really well,” Thompson said.