Sports

Grapplers make state great

South Whidbey wrestlers Ben Harris, Phil Schorr and Chris Long have plenty of hardware from this season, including medals for placing at last weekend
South Whidbey wrestlers Ben Harris, Phil Schorr and Chris Long have plenty of hardware from this season, including medals for placing at last weekend's Mat Classic in Tacoma.
— image credit: Matt Johnson

If nothing else, the Washington State Mat Classic is about living dreams.

On Saturday, one South Whidbey wrestler who dreamed of being in a championship match was. Another, who envisioned himself standing on the podium, found himself there.

The third, whose reality did not quite live up to expectations, still made a big impression when it counted.

Of six Falcons wrestlers who made the trip to the Friday-Saturday tournament in Tacoma, three -- Ben Harris, Phil Schorr and Chris Long -- were dreamers of both powerful vision and powerful deeds.

Harris, a 160-pound junior who started the season with a few quiet wins, surprised everyone but himself Saturday by making it to the championship round and placing second in his first trip to the state tournament. Tearing through two preliminary rounds, Harris affirmed his status as the best wrestler in his class west of the mountains by beating Nooksack Valley's Andrew Larson in an exhausting semifinal match.

In a bout that exemplified the pluckiness of his team, Harris shook off a bloody nose caused by a head butt in Larson's first charge of the match to simply outlast the competition. Evenly matched, both wrestlers lost points for stalling violations before Harris wrapped Larson up with seconds to go to take the contest 6-5.

The bout was so close that even his coach, Wes Helseth, thought more time was needed to decide which wrestler was best.

"It's one of those matches that probably could've gone into overtime," he said.

Harris, who stumbled off the mat after the victory, did not agree. He didn't have anything left for overtime.

"I was pretty glad it was over," he said.

As Harris waited for his championship match -- which he would lose 6-4 to the state's top-ranked, undefeated 160 pounder, Juventino Orozco of Connell -- other South Whidbey wrestlers had their own battles to fight.

Schorr and Long

stay strong

Schorr, who at 34-3 compiled the second-best single-season record ever by a Falcon wrestler, discovered that nothing came easily at the Mat Classic. In his first state meet, the 103-pound junior took one-point decisions in his two opening round bouts Friday. Then on Saturday, he ran up against an even harsher reality when he met up with East Valley Yakima's Scott Thompson. Outdone like he hadn't been all year, Schorr lost the bout 16-0 and dropped into the consolation bracket.

Still, it was part of the plan.

"At first, I just wanted to get on the podium," he said. "I knew I couldn't win."

But aside from losing to an eventual state champion, Schorr did not need to be modest. Snapping back, he won a 5-4 consolation final against first-round opponent AJ Delean, then finished the day with a 4-2 decision over Talon Cerna of Connell for third place.

Forced to battle even harder during the tournament was senior Chris Long. In a highly competitive pool of 145-pound wrestlers, Long won two of three bouts Friday, almost taking down 2002 state champion Josh Korke of Kiona-Benton along the way in a close 2-1 losing effort.

On Saturday, only one wrestler stood in Long's path to a shot at the tournament's consolation championship, Nooksack Valley's Justin Van Dyke. Long's most frustrating opponent, Van Dyke stopped Long for the sixth time this season in a 4-2 bout that typified every meeting the two have had over the past three months.

After placing seventh at last year's Mat Classic, Long rallied himself from the loss and came back to best Nels Jorgensen of Tenino by a fall to move up the state ladder to fifth place.

Unhappy with his losses in earlier rounds, Long said the win was the finish he needed for his South Whidbey wrestling career.

"It felt pretty good to come out and pin him," he said.

The three Falcon placers gave South Whidbey its best finish ever at the state meet, 15th overall. That came as no surprise to Coach Helseth, who brought the largest contingent of Falcon wrestlers to the Mat Classic ever -- six in all.

Falcons taking early exits from the tournament were sophomore Tyler Rueth, who was pinned in his two 112-pound matches; Jason Mannie also by way of two pins at 130 pounds; and 135-pound junior Conley White, who managed a 7-5 victory over Ernest Guzman of Othello Friday before being eliminated in the third round of the tournament.

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