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Talent and desire continue to define Mercer Island wrestlers
Height in basketball is a huge advantage. For baseball players, hand-eye coordination is key. But for wrestlers, gaining an advantage on the mat is trickier to quantify.
Practice, strategy, hard work and listening to coaches all come into play when facing an opponent all tied up with the desire to win.
Halfway through the Mercer Island wrestling season, the team has seen all of that come into play, propelling the team into success.
“Unlike other sports, where certain physical gifts might be necessary for success at the highest level (say height in basketball), wrestling is really about hard work and discipline,” said Islander head coach Creighton Laughary. “So much of a wrestler’s success depends on how hard he is willing to work and stay focused on his goals and on his coaching.”
So far those ideas have served the team well, racking up team wins and individual successes.
“(The) season is going very well,” said Laughary. “We have not had the turnout in terms of numbers, but I feel like this is one of the hardest working, most dedicated teams I have ever coached. That really comes from the leadership and example of the captains. Younger guys see a Sal Giampapa or an Andrew Rawson working hard — and that hard work resulting in success — and they are excited to follow the example.”
Laughary said Colton Knebel has had a particularly strong season. He finished third at state last year in the 189 weight division.
“Elliot Wittenberg has really stepped up,” said Laughary. “His technique has always been solid, but his wrestling intelligence and competitiveness on the mats have increased, and his winning along with it. Jake Pruchno (a freshman) is also doing very well and getting better with every match.”
As in many other sports in the KingCo league, teams are tough all around, and making sure the team is ready to go every match. For the Islanders so far this season, Interlake has been the biggest test, but other challenging teams are still ahead.
“So far, Interlake was a big test, but we are looking forward to Bellevue, Mount Si and Liberty,” said the coach. “Nobody is going to be easy.”
The team faced Bellevue last Friday, rescheduled after a snow storm earlier in the week caused widespread cancellations. The Islanders beat Bellevue, some of their biggest competition so far this season, 45-24.
Friday, Jan. 14
Mercer Island 45, Bellevue 24
Results – 103 - Jacob Pruchno beat Jordan Robinson by fall 0:57; 112 - Bradley Ballard (Bellevue) won by forfeit; 119 - Matthew Casimes (Bellevue) beat Jimyoung Kim by fall 0:20; 125 - Ben Matteucci (Bellevue) beat Kenji Walker by decision 15-13; 130 - Dylan Sullivan beat Andrew Ewing by fall 2:57; 135 - Kyle Shanafelt beat Jun Park by decision 2-0; 140 - Connor Hudson (Bellevue) beat Salvatore Giampapa by decision 9-3; 145 - Blake Johnson beat Peter Ovens by fall 5:02; 152 - Colin Small (Bellevue) beat Andrew Rawson by decision 9-6; 160 - Elliot Wittenberg beat Sam Bassford by fall 1:43; 171 - Phil Fraizer beat Jamey Mange by fall 2:38; 189 - Colton Knebel beat Kevin Rogers by fall 1:31; 215 - James Trull beat Thomas Blackburn 5-3; 285 - Benjamin O’Connell beat Dean Jones by fall 1:47.