Destiny? Wrestling in control

By Matt Phelps

It was an imposing scenario for any team to face: The Mercer Island wrestling team's loss to open the season meant it would have to rely on things outside of its control. It would have to be destiny if the Islanders had a shot.

But the team's 38-18 annihilation of the Wildcats Thursday at Mount Si High School, in front of what seemed like the entire town, completed the unlikely scenario.

``This one ranks right up there,'' said Mercer Island head wrestling coach Paul Jackson, who is in his 28th year of coaching the team. ``This means that we have control of our own destiny.''

That destiny part could come at 7:30 p.m. Thursday night as the Islanders host Issaquah. If they win, the Islanders take the 3A KingCo title for the second consecutive year.

``Last year, we kind of overlooked Issaquah,'' said Islander senior Jesse Johnson. ``Not this time; we will be ready.''

Issaquah lost on Thursday to Liberty for just its second loss of the year.

``You work it out on paper, but you still have to wrestle the darn thing,'' said Jackson.

On paper, the Islanders should beat the Eagles. On paper, Mercer Island could have easily lost to Mount Si. The Wildcats entered the match with a perfect 5-0 record and a distinct home-mat advantage. But the boisterous crowd did not deter the Islanders.

Islander Colin Sedlacek's initial moves during his match at 160 pounds were huge following a three-point loss to start the meet at 152 pounds.

As Sedlacek's opponent went for his legs, the Islander pancaked him for a takedown. The advantage for Sedlacek also resulted in a near fall and a 5-0 lead. His opponent fought back. A 5-4 advantage for Sedlacek didn't seem like much as a restart forced him to the bottom with just 28 second left. But a quick spin move sealed a 7-4 victory for Mercer Island.

The Islanders took a forfeit at 171 pounds, giving the Wildcats six points. Senior Islander Derek Baer came to the mat next at 189 pounds. The match was crucial as the Islanders did not want to fall too far behind. Baer gained an early 4-0 lead and rode his opponent to the end of the match. Baer got Mercer Island back within three points of the Cats with the 11-7 victory.

``Before the meet, coach told us to wrestle hard, win or lose,'' said Baer. ``We know that we need everything to take KingCo.''

Johnson won his match at 215 pounds with a near fall during the third round, 5-2, tying the meet score at 9-9.

Mercer Island took its first lead of the night as Kostya Pospelov dominated his opponent for a 12-6 victory at 275 pounds.

But the Islanders gave the lead back. Though pins were a rarity for either team during the meet, the Wildcats were able to pin the Islanders in the 103-pound category. But that would be the Wildcats' last lead.

Islander Jean Laschever got her team four points to retake the lead with a 9-1, major-decision win over her opponent at 112 pounds.

Laschever's match was an example of the frustration for Mercer Island. The team's bench watched on in disbelief during the majority of the night as pin fall after pin fall was not called.

The frustration boiled over during Islander Sean Embly's match at 119 pounds. With a 5-0 lead, Embly rolled up his opponent while standing, forcing the Wildcat's shoulders to the mat. The move also blocked the referee from seeing the pin. The first-round buzzer sounded. No points were awarded to Embly. Jackson erupted.

``I thought he had him stuck,'' said Jackson. ``He didn't see it that way.''

The coach walked to the scorer's table, telling the ref that Embly had the pin and at least four points for the takedown and near fall. The Mount Si spectators also voiced their opinions and Jackson fired back.

''I basically challenged them all,'' joked Jackson.

The referee's initial response to the coach: ``Sorry.'' But Jackson completed his argument, the official awarded Embly one more point.

``(The ref) has not done a lot of varsity meets and he got put into a tough situation tonight,'' said Jackson. ``He did a fine job under the circumstances.''

The decision sent the crowd and the Mount Si coach into a frenzy.

Embly went back to work and earned a major decision 14-5 but he had his opponent in near fall situation three more times and never got a pin.

At 125 pounds, sophomore Greg Jones picked up three points with an unexpected 12-6 victory. The win gave the Islanders more than a pin's advantage on the scoreboard.

Aaron Agnew earned the Islanders' first pin of the night at 130 pounds by the slimmest of margins. With 20 seconds remaining in the match, Agnew reversed his opponent and earned near-fall points. But again, no pin was called. As the clock ticked away, the ref scrambled around the competitors for a better view. The clock ran. For the first time all night, the ref blew his whistle and slapped the mat. A pin for Mercer Island -- with one second remaining in the round.

``Honestly, I knew I had the pin,'' said Agnew. ``I saw the clock at nine seconds and I knew it was tough to get a pin with this ref. But I thought I could still get it.''

The pin gave the Islanders a near insurmountable lead at 29-15.

Mercer Island wrapped up the

win with a Parker Faith 4-1 victory (135 pounds) and a Kyle Agnew pin at 3:41 (145 pounds).

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