After Mike Crebbin watched sophomore wrestler Erick Flister lose his first match Saturday, he told him it was time to do some winning.
Encouragement from his coach and anger at losing a 16-4 contest he thought he should have won was all Flister needed to go on a tear during which he pinned three opponents in a total of four-and-a-half minutes.
“I just got mad I was losing,” Flister said, after taking fourth place at last weekend’s Connell Tournament.
Several other Falcon wrestlers found the same mental zone as the team made a strong, seventh-place showing at the 16-team tournament Saturday. To get there, the team wrestled a number of matches their coach may never forget.
In the 189-pound division, senior Falcon Brandon Hern gave Crebbin a semifinals scare before doing something his coach had never seen before. Having won his first-round match with a pin and in the second round with a 17-1 technical fall, Hern won a 9-4 dual in the semis Crebbin said was too close. Telling Hern the team needed the extra point that comes with a pin, he asked for a more decisive victory in the finals against Vashon’s Eric Mattingly.
The coach didn’t get the pin he wanted, but he did get to see the fastest technical fall of the year. Hern outpointed Mattingly 16-1 by the 10-second mark in the second round and left the mat a champion after the referee called the bout.
“It was unbelievable,” Crebbin said.
Relief quickly reverted to stress again during the next Falcon match, a 215-pound contest that almost got South Whidbey senior Chris Martin disqualified. Making a foot sweep takedown on his first move of the tournament, Martin took his opponent to the mat so hard the other boy suffered a separated shoulder. Though the injury was unintentional, Crebbin said, the referee for the match saw it differently. He called the move a slam.
But making a classy and painful move, the injured wrestler returned to toe the edge of the ring and allowed his coach to throw in the towel — an action that sidestepped a disqualification and allowed Martin to move on.
Martin didn’t look a gift horse in the mouth. He pinned his next opponent in 59 seconds, won a 9-1 decision against a third-round opponent who outweighed him by 20 pounds, then pinned Kiona-Benton’s Cody Ross in 59 seconds to win the championship.
Connell won the tournament, while Warden was the runner up.
Also picking up points for the Falcons were 119 pounder Conley White (fourth), 145 pounder Chris Long (third), 152 pounder Ben Harris (fourth), and 103 pound freshman Tyler Rueth (sixth).
On the same day at a junior varsity tournament in Snohomish County, JV Falcons Jason Gilberts (173) and Jason Mannie (118) took second place honors, while Zack Bartell (160) took third place.
Next up for the team is a double dual meet Thursday in Mount Baker. Wrestling begins at Mount Baker High School at 6 p.m.