South Whidbey senior Chase Barthlett had never been so nervous in his life.
Barthlett, the Falcons’ heavyweight, was warming up to wrestle Zillah’s Luis Briones in the first round of the class 1A Region 2 tournament at Highland High School on Saturday, Feb. 11. Self-doubt was creeping into his head and the thought that his career could come to a crashing halt loomed. He couldn’t keep his mind from going back to last year’s regional tournament when he was pinned in the first round of regionals.
“This whole year I’ve been a lot better about not being nervous, but that first match, I was sitting there and I was almost puking,” Barthlett said.
Then Barthlett realized something. He didn’t have to fight the self-doubt. Instead, he would control only what he could control: Effort on the mat.
“I told my mom, ‘Listen, whatever happens today, happens,’ ” Barthlett said. “‘I’m going to go out there and wrestle and give it my all.’ I’m going to let what happens, happen.”
Barthlett pinned Briones in the first period. The butterflies went away after that.
He then punched a ticket to the class 1A state wrestling tournament when he pinned Jose Mendoza of Granger with five seconds left in the first period. It will be Barthlett’s second consecutive trip to the state tournament after qualifying in 2016 in only two years wrestling for the Falcons.
“I got up and that’s when I realized: State,” Barthlett said. “It was such a cool feeling. I’m like, ‘Alright, now I know I’m going back.’ ”
The senior finished second after being pinned by Highland’s Noe Perez in the finals. Barthlett will be joined in the Tacoma Dome this weekend by senior 138-pounder Hunter Newman, who placed third despite having a broken right hand. Sophomore Owen Boram placed fifth at 152 pounds and will make also the trip to The Dome.
Senior 182-pounder Logan Madsen and sophomore Aryeh Rohde (126) finished sixth, while sophomore Alex Turner (170) went two-and-out.
Newman, who also qualified for state at 132 pounds in 2015 and 138 in 2016, pinned his first opponent, Eric De La Rose of Zillah, in a minute and 28 seconds. He lost his semifinal match to Granger’s Niko Garcia 7-4, but bounced back with an 8-6 overtime win over Josh Say of Cle Elum-Roslyn to advance to state. Newman won his final match of the day over Sultan’s Donald Dennis 8-2.
“I’m just excited I’m going again,” Newman said. “It was my dream to go four years in a row, but that fell short.”
Newman said it was difficult to block out the pain in his hand. He iced the swelling between matches. When he took the mat, he did his best to keep his mind from lingering on the pain. It was a task not easily accomplished, thanks to his opponents.
“Each one of the guys wrenched on the hand and that really sucked,” Newman said.
Head coach Jim Thompson said Saturday was an emotional rollercoaster, from watching Newman gut through his pain to earn his third state berth to seeing Boram fight his way to being a state alternate. He said he was overcome with joy when Barthlett won his semifinal match.
“When he came off the mat, we hugged and I literally fell apart,” Thompson said. “I was uncontrollably crying. The whole year, the end of my career — I was happy.”
Thompson’s tears of joy turned to laughter when Barthlett reminded him of a bet they had made the night prior to regionals. If any of the Falcons made it to state, Thompson would have to wear kids-sized shorts and blue spandex with leprechauns and rainbows that the team purchased at a thrift shop in Yakima.
“ ‘You have to wear the outfit now!’ ” Thompson remembered Barthlett saying.
Thompson stayed true to his promise when he strolled into the mat room Monday afternoon.