Mercer Island wrestlers looking to top last winter | Wrestling preview

MIHS wrestlers, from left, sophomore Kenji Walker, senior Phil Frazier, senior Blake Johnson and junior Connor Gullstad.  - Chad Coleman/Mercer Island Reporter
MIHS wrestlers, from left, sophomore Kenji Walker, senior Phil Frazier, senior Blake Johnson and junior Connor Gullstad.
— image credit: Chad Coleman/Mercer Island Reporter

It’s going to be tough for the Islanders to top last year. The best finish in recent program history, state placements and KingCo and district titles will be on the to-do list.

But the Mercer Island wrestlers are game to give it a try.

“We haven’t talked about specific goals, but I think it’s always a goal to improve on the previous year. That would be hard to do since ninth at state is our best finish in 20 years. But we’d like to stay at that state caliber, where as a team we’re recognized as a strong program,” said returning head coach Creighton Laughary.

The team has already made a name for itself in the league, after winning two straight KingCo titles, as well as picking up the district win last year.

“We would also like to go for the first ‘three-peat’ in school history with the KingCo championship, but we recognize that that’s going to be difficult,” said the coach. “The league is getting tougher. Bellevue’s competitive, Mount Si has a strong team with a lot of experience. Liberty has a state champ on their lineup. We have that as our goal, even though it’s going to be tough.”

The team, while younger, has several returners with state experience and a big crop of freshmen thanks to a strong program at Islander Middle School.

“We have a younger team; things kind of go in cycles,” said Laughary. “We graduated a group of really strong seniors, and the result of them being strong guys and in the varsity line up for a couple years persuaded some of the kids.”

Two returning seniors who have been in the thick of the state competition are Phil Frazier and Blake Johnson.

“We have two seniors with returning state experience. That’s Phil Frazier and Blake Johnson. So where we’ve had a lot of seniors in the past, we only have two, but we feel they are very strong,” said the coach.

“We have a lot of freshmen who are working hard,” said Johnson of the season so far. “We’re working on keeping our tempo up in practice.”

Frazier, who was injured at the end of the football season, hasn’t been able to hit the mats for wrestling yet.

“My focus has been on conditioning,” he said. “I have a high tempo style.” He added now that he’s wrestling in the 182-weight class, it will be easier for him to make weight and focus on other things.

Laughary said the team has spent the first week or so of practice on technique.

“We’re working on being aggressive on our feet,” he said. “One of our assistant coaches, Adrian Diaz, is a Seattle police officer and an alum. He’s really brought in a good technique, and since he’s been here, we’ve been much stronger on our feet in the way we attack our opponents — instead of having a defensive style or a cautious style, and it can get us into trouble, but I think it’s an exciting kind of wrestling and the guys like it.”

The team began its campaign last week with a double dual meet against Everett and Shorewood, top of the top teams in the state last year.

“Because we go north for our region, we really haven’t bumped into them too often during the season, so it’ll be a good early measuring stick,” said Laughary.

The Islanders will travel to Sammamish on Thursday, Dec. 8, for a meet against the Totems starting at 7:30 p.m. The team then hosts a meet against Interlake on Dec. 15.

Get a full schedule on the KingCo website.

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