The Mercer Island wrestling team was just a few points away from allowing a Mount Si win on Thursday, Jan. 17, but a few key pins and points helped the Islanders overcome the Wildcats with a 42-28 final score.
The Islanders started the night with two pins, when Jack Vassau pinned Max Kenagy in 4:45 minutes to win the 160 weight match. Nicholas Chandler won the 170 weight division by pinning Cole Palmer to give the Islanders an early lead.
“There were so many big moments,” said head coach Creighton Laughary. “Eight team point lead changes, and with only 14 matches, that indicates how close it really was. I was impressed by the focus and effort of the captains. We ended the dual with the matches of four captains, and each one came through in a big way to help seal the victory. I asked Luke Wilson to wrestle up to 132, to put one of our best wrestlers against their best wrestler, and he wrestled an awesome match, losing to a state-ranked kid in the final seconds of the match. Then we had Jake Pruchno, Kenji Walker, and Connor Gullstad all win in the final three matches to pull ahead and stay ahead. We also had huge contributions from two sophomores: Jack Vassau and Trevor Gullstad. Each of them stepped into the varsity line-up (we had to address some holes due to illness, injury and finals) and came through with wins over veteran Mt. Si varsity wrestlers."
Mount Si regained some momentum in the 182 match, when Timothy Corrie beat Daniel Stanke by overtime decision 9-7, followed by Mitch Rorem earning a major decision win over Evan Condon 12-4 in the 195 match. Wildcat Nate Whited pinned Andrew Picton in 27 seconds to win the 220 and give Mount Si the lead.
Not winning to be outdone in their own gym, Benjamin O'Connell pinned Kelly Klupar in 1:16 to win the 285 match and give the Islanders the points to retake the lead.
Tough Mount Si's Hunter Conway won the 106 pound match by forfeit, Taylan Yuasa pinned Griffin Armour in the 113 division in 4:22 to give the Islanders a point cushion. Mount Si's Eli Clure won the 120 division by forfeit, and Trevor Gullstad beat Gunnar Harrison in the 126 division by 4-2 decision.
Luke Wilson lost a close match to Ryley Absher in the 132 match by 9-8 decision, but Jacob Pruchno's pin on Tanner Stahl in 4:58 in the 138 division gave the Islanders points to help secure the win. Kenji Walker added points for the Islanders in the 145 weight class by beating Tye Rodne with a 19-14 decision. In the 152 match, which finalized the Islanders victory, Connor Gullstad pinned Justin Edens in 42 seconds.
Laughary said the team has been working on knowing what is going on outside of the match on the mat, which can help in close meets like against Mount Si.
"We are working on and doing better at wrestling complete matches. That is to say, knowing the score, knowing what types of moves and scores we need to win or to control the opponent. So, while we have improved in technique and conditioning, I would say our greatest improvement is in wrestling intelligence," he said.
The Islanders team traveled to the Jaguar Invitational on Saturday, Jan. 19.
Mercer Island will host Bellevue Thursday, Jan. 24 in the team's final home match of the regular season. The team plans to honor seniors before the meet.
"So far, it has been an up and down season, but the guys are really working hard right now to accomplish their remaining goals. I am proud of them, especially of the leadership of our captain and seniors," said the coach. "We have a great assortment of characters. We have our steady captains who lead by example and are fierce competitors: Nick Chandler, Connor Gullstad, and Danny Stanke. We have a couple of guys who are always cracking jokes, breaking up the monotony and grind of the wrestling season: Andy Picton and Ben O'Connell. We have a few guys whose best is yet to come, whether due to injuries or other reasons, when we get them on the mat full-time, they will really impress: Mikalai Hubarevich, Ethan Thompson, and Luca Caruccio. Together, I think all of them have done an exceptional job of helping to create a feeling of family and inclusiveness on the team. Not every team is like that, but these guys make the underclassmen, whether JV or varsity, feel like they are known and important."