Brandon Hern finally got the match he wanted all year.
In the 189-pound championship match at Saturday’s Washington State Mat Classic, Hern — who is undefeated this season and 67-1 in the past two years — shocked Vashon’s Evan Mattingly by dropping him to the mat within 10 seconds of the opening whistle, then pinning him only 1:25 into the bout.
The victory was Hern’s fifth over Mattingly this season. But for the first time, in the season’s last match, Hern had total control at the end.
“He always gets away,” he said. “I really, really wanted to pin him.”
That pin gave Hern his second state championship in two years and now ranks him as the best wrestler ever at South Whidbey High School. His win, plus two medal performances from Falcon teammates Chris Martin and Chris Long, also gave South Whidbey’s wrestling program its finest result, 16th place out of 49 2A schools.
Still, other than Hern’s championship match, very little came easy for the Falcons at the Mat Classic. Chris Long gave the team a good start, but also got a preview of things to come when he barely outpointed Othello’s Alex Torres 7-6 in Friday’s opening 145-pound bout. Though he would eventually meet and beat Torres again in a 4-3 match for seventh place, Long’s first bout started a trend of nailbiters for Falcon wrestling fans.
Long said he knew that would be par for the course at state.
“I think I was pretty much ready for it,” he said.
Close matches took the biggest toll on senior Chris Martin. After getting pinned in his opening match against Ridgefield’s Kyle Simmons, Martin came back to win three matches in a row on scores of 6-3, 5-4 and 5-4. Though he was in position to battle for third place in the tournament, he still had a problem.
“My arms, they were just done,” he said.
This was not the time for something to go wrong. Matched against Mount Baker’s Brady Jonas in Saturday’s consolation semifinals, Martin struggled and lost to Jonas 9-5.
In his final match, a contest for fifth place, Martin bounced back. After a three-hour rest, his arms were strong enough to outlast Jake Healy of Ephrata in one more 5-4 match.
At home Monday, Martin said he has his hard-earned state medal on display.
“It’s already up on the wall,” he said.
Even Hern, who scored two pins and a 6-0 win on his way to the championship, had his own close call. Paired off against Dustin Haynes of Medical Lake in the semifinals, Hern met his match for the first time this season. The two wrestlers grappled almost point for point through three rounds. Though Hern led most of the way, he fell behind briefly in the third round before scoring a two-point takedown to win 4-3.
Hern was impressed with Haynes.
“He’s just a really, really strong wrestler,” he said.
In addition to winning on the mat, Hern took a second championship at the Mat Classic for his work in the classroom. With a 3.8 GPA, the senior student earned academic state champion honors for being the brightest 2A wrestler in the 189-pound division.
Falcon Coach Mike Crebbin said this year’s state meet will lay the foundation for an even better year for the Falcons next season. He said his one returner from the meet, junior Chris Long, will come to next year’s Mat Classic knowing what it takes to be a champion.
Crebbin said he expects at least one more of his wrestlers to find the right formula as well.
“Now my goal is to have a couple of state champions,” he said.