Faith fights for first

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Junior takes 119-pound title, seven Islanders advance to districts

By Matt Phelps
Mercer Island Reporter

Alex Faith was focused on his goal of winning during the 119-pound championship match of the 3A KingCo tournament at Liberty High School Saturday. It was not about dominating, which he did throughout his run to the finals. It was not about pins, of which he had earned two. It was about winning. Faith wrapped up his opponent in a cradle position, one arm around his opponent’s head, the other locked around his leg. With a 10-3 lead on the scoreboard during the third round, Faith just held on, eventually earning his third pin and the championship.

“I was just sitting there,” said Faith. “I knew I had the match and I just cranked it harder and harder. This is just a great feeling.”

Faith was the only Islander to get that feeling as the young Mercer Island team struggled to place anyone else into the finals of any other weight class. But the Islanders may have received something a lot more substantial to the future of a young team with no seniors — experience.

That learning environment will continue Saturday in Bellingham, as Faith will lead seven Islander qualifiers and three alternates into the district meet.

“I can’t complain, these guys worked hard,” said Mercer Island head coach Creighton Laughary. “I think they understand now how close they are to accomplishing the larger goals.”

Another Islander who accomplished his season goals was Chris Fricke-Yang who earned third place at 112 pounds. Fricke-Yang earned a first-round bye, despite missing most of the season.

“I was surprised I was seeded that high,” said Fricke-Yang. “But this raises the bar for me next year.”

Islanders Jackson Fischer (130) and Tanner Linton (heavy weight) also earned third place in their respective brackets. Fischer gave his first two opponents a lesson in survival as he won both matches with a combined score of 27-4.

Mercer Island's Sam Bliss bounced back from a devastating loss during the second to last meet of the year to take third place in the 171-pound weight division. Blissa earned the most exciting Islander win of the day as he pinned his first opponent with one-second left on the clock. Graham Horgdal qualified as an alternate to districts by taking fifth place in the same bracket.

Davin Kunovsky (135 pounds) and David Bowman (140 pounds) each qualified for the district tournament with fourth-place finishes. Bowman took the hardest road of any Islander to districts as he entered the tournament without a first round bye and wrestled five matches in one day. Adding to the grueling day was the fact that nearly all of his matches went the distance including an 11-6, 8-6 and a 7-0 victory.

One of the most tumultuous weight classes during the meet was at 215 pounds. Islander Chris Pothoven, a 2006 state participant, was a perfect example of the bracket.

“That weight class was topsy-turvy,” said Laughery, as three of the top four seeds failed to qualify for districts. “Some days are like this in wrestling. But it is how you bounce back that matters.”

Pothoven seeding earned him a first-round bye in the bracket and the junior went one to earn a pin during the second round in 53 seconds. But two consecutive losses and an injury forfeit victory left Pothoven a shocking alternate to districts.

“I just wasn’t myself today,” said Pothoven. “It’s so hard to tell what was going on there are so many X factors.”

Austin Frazier also earned an alternate spot to the district meet by placing fifth in the 145-pound weight class.

One of the most encouraging signs for the Islanders was by junior Sun Kim, who finished sixth in the 119-pound bracket. Kim, who wrestled the season on the junior-varsity squad, shocked his opponents and coaches by earning two wins in the varsity tournament. Although Kim, who is a first year wrestler, just missed qualifying for the district tournament as an alternate by one seed, he earned a lot of respect.

“I was really proud and surprised,” said Fricke-Yang. “I expect great things from him next year.”

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