Sports

Falcon grapplers take down Lakewood

Falcon wrestler Jeff Kunellis (112-pound weight class), left, pinned Cougar Cameron Wheeler with 54 seconds left in the second round during Thursday’s match with Lakewood. He and six other Falcons won their matches, beating Lakewood 45-39. - Jeff VanDerford / The Record
Falcon wrestler Jeff Kunellis (112-pound weight class), left, pinned Cougar Cameron Wheeler with 54 seconds left in the second round during Thursday’s match with Lakewood. He and six other Falcons won their matches, beating Lakewood 45-39.
— image credit: Jeff VanDerford / The Record

LANGLEY — For a “young, inexperienced” team — as described early in the season by Falcon coach Jim Thompson — the Falcon grapplers put on quite a show Thursday night.

Despite forfeiting four of 14 weight classes, thereby losing six points each, South Whidbey upended the visiting Lakewood Cougars 45-39 on the strength of outstanding performances on the mat.

Falcons Jeff Kunellis (112-pound weight class), Colton Vaughn (125), Evan Thompson (135), Van Morgen (152), Patrick Monell (160), Dillon Parrick (189) and Chris Monell (215) overcame their respective opponents to the shouts and cheers of a surprisingly large crowd in Erikson Gym.

“The kids really stepped it up tonight, showed me a lot of guts, especially the guys who fought at a higher weight classification,” Thompson said.

Daniel Childers (171), Parrick and Chris Monell all agreed before the match to fight opponents at the higher weight level, a strategy that meant the Falcons wouldn’t have to forfeit and sit out the match.

Parrick pinned Cougar Mitch Fernandez and Monell took down Travis Givler, but Childers, who weighs 160, ran into trouble.

Wrestlers have three two-minute rounds to rack up points — through take-downs, reversals and near falls — or pin their man. Childers came close, with 15 seconds left in the third round, but just couldn’t quite get Cougar Sean Hackworth’s shoulders on the mat, losing on points 15-9.

The referee hovered closely over both fighters, ready to slap his hand down to give Childers the pin, but time ran out.

“I feel bad losing, but there was a lot more weight to push around,” Childers said. “Anyone who thinks this sport is easy hasn’t been in my shoes. I’m proud of how I fought.”

And he has every reason to feel that way, Thompson said.

“Daniel almost pulled it out and saved three points by going the distance,” the coach explained.

Vaughn took less than a minute to pin George Smead in the first round.

“I knew he was good, and I wanted to take him down fast,” Vaughn said. “All of us appreciate all the people who showed up, especially the quality of their sportsmanship, not booing and such.”

Morgen felt his match was about average for his weight class.

“My goal was to be as aggressive as possible, not let him (Cougar Dan Brower) catch his breath,” he said. It took Morgen 39 seconds to put Brower away.

Thompson needed all three rounds for his victory, beating Nolan Bingamen 6-4.

“I wanted to intimidate him, but he’s really tough, and I had to expend a lot of energy to break him down, to drop his arms and get him flat on the mat,” Thompson said. “He was strong but not necessarily skilled.”

He agreed with Childers about how wrestling is viewed by those who haven’t done it before.

“It’s not a game. And we don’t play out there,” he said.

Today, the boys travel to Mount Vernon for a tournament. On Thursday, Jan. 14, they’ll dim the lights, spread the mat in Erikson Gym and be ready to wrestle against the Sultan Turks.

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