Senior Ben Morgen battled tough opponents, a bloody nose and a thief on his way to place sixth in the 145-pound weight class last weekend during state finals at the Tacoma Dome.
At the 8 a.m. weigh-in on Friday, Morgen followed the official’s instructions to leave his gym bag in the corner. It soon came up missing.
“Yeah, someone took all my stuff,” Morgen said. “I had to borrow James’ (alternate Schorr) clothes and shoes. They’re about two sizes too tight.”
Morgen had a busy two days — he lost to Othello’s Jack Calvert (who gave him that bloody nose), then pinned Cheney’s Joe Miller and Hoquiam’s Joel Voloney in consolation finals before losing on points to Grandview’s Fernando Cadenas for the sixth spot.
Teammates Aaron Mannie (140), Matt Long (152) and Trapper Rawls (285) didn’t fare as well for the Falcons; each lost their first match, then won at least one other but all were out of the running by Saturday.
Despite their individual finishes, each had a sterling season on the mats: Morgen won 30 matches and lost six, Mannie had 29-11, Long 30-9 and Rawls 27-8.
This was sophomore Rawls first time at the Classic and he faced a guy who was 40 pounds heavier (allowed in the heavyweight class).
“I had him completely beat and made a bonehead error,” he recalled of his first match. “I took him down but he switched me. I tried to roll through very fast but he caught me and I got pinned.”
But Rawls wasn’t intimidated by the size of the venue.
“It was huge but when I’m on the mat I can’t hear anything except my coaches. All the noise fades away. It’s weird, but that’s why the coach emphasizes the importance of staying focused.”
Rawls feels he has improved dramatically this year. “It was a great, fun season and I competed each time. I think next year will be great.”
The aging, wooden Tacoma Dome was rocking as thousands of hardcore wrestling fans checked out the 19th iteration of the Mat Classic — representing an astonishing 249 high schools from all over Washington.
There were teams from Walla Walla, Washougal, Wapato, Centralia, Quincy, Othello and Hanford and they collectively brought thousands of fans with them.
Fans like Mike and Kathy Long, sitting high up in the bleachers taking in the action and cheering son Matt and the whole Falcon team.
“This is such an exciting sport,” Kathy Long said. “All these matches going on at the same time is amazing, a real spectacle. You can see how dedicated and determined those guys are.”
Mike Long noted their older son Chris had placed fifth in 2003.
“I wish more of the younger kids could see what this is all about,” he said. “This is as competitive a sport as you’ll see at the high school level.”
On the floor, 24 mats featuring 48 grapplers kept eyes glued to the action. A burst of cheers would ring out from one section or another as a favorite wrestler reversed and pinned his guy or, conversely, groans when things didn’t go well.
Lots of teams brought cheerleaders who constantly walked the perimeter before arranging their colorful pillows by the side of the mat; spectators couldn’t hear their cheers much but they added a certain flavor.
But, as Rawls discovered, once the whistle blows all the noise collapses down to the tiny spot in the center — it’s just you and your opponent in three two-minute spurts of intense struggle few athletes ever experience.
Long said it was a cool thing to be a part of a team at state.
“I was hoping to place higher, but I was seeded in a way that I faced some guys at the top of their game,” Long said. “That first match, I should have won that one; the score was 0-0 to the last seconds when he pulled a reversal.”
Long had 19 pins this season and no regrets. But he did have some advice.
“We have a lot of good wrestlers for the future,” he said. “They need to work out every day in the off-season, attend a wrestling camp at least once and don’t be afraid to ask for help from
“And everyone needs to go to state to see what’s it’s all about.”
Falcons Coach Jim Thompson was happy to be part of what he called “an incredible year.”
“We won our first tournament, brought in the biggest crowd ever to the high school gym and sent five to state. Not bad,” Thompson said.
Thompson will miss his co-
“Matt and Ben had an enormous impact in the mat room, at tournaments and in Erikson Gym all year long. Their leadership has been outstanding. Someone on the team is going to have to step up and fill some big shoes,” he said.
Jeff VanDerford can be reached at 221-53000 or email@example.com.