Mercer Island wrestling remains unbeaten in league

The Mercer Island wrestling team will have a big meet on Jan. 29 when they take on Inglemoor and Woodinville at Bothell High School. The meet could determine the regular season 3A KingCo champion, but all involved have to get there undefeated — including the Islanders.

Mercer Island took another step toward that goal with a 51-27 victory at Juanita High School on Wednesday.

The meet began in a tough way for an Islander who has struggled this season. Senior Jake Frazier took on a tough 171-pound opponent and found himself in a difficult match. Down 4-7 after the first period, Frazier turned things around, scoring four unanswered points with a take down and two escapes. But with 52 seconds remaining, Frazier’s opponent wiggled out of a hold to tie the match at 8-8. The two wrestlers traded stalling penalties during the last 37 seconds of the match. Tied at 9-9, Frazier’s opponent tried to take control with a loose hold around his waist. The referee called the move a take down despite the buzzer sounding to end the period. The Juanita wrestler won the match, 11-9, despite the protests by Frazier and Mercer Island coach Creighton Laughary.

The Islanders received a better outcome during Colton Knebel’s match at 189 pounds. The sophomore built up an 8-3 lead with a big near fall and eventually wore his opponent down late in the second period. The win was made more impressive by the fact that he was giving up nearly 16 pounds to his opponent.

“I think he cut five pounds to wrestle this match,” said Knebel. “I gave up a lot but they’re not as fast if they are heavier than you. Everyone in this league is new and I have never seen them before, so that makes it kind of difficult.”

Knebel is having an impressive year for a sophomore. He is undefeated in the league and has lost just two matches overall.

“I have gotten better on my feet, and I am doing more on the bottom,” said Knebel. “I have a series of moves from the bottom, and I am stronger overall.”

Islander Graham Horgdal pushed Mercer Island’s lead to nine points when he earned a quick 1:29 pin during his 215-pound match. But TJ Blackburn was not as lucky, getting pinned after just 57 seconds.

Juanita took a forfeit at 103 pounds, and Scott Mills earned a pin during his 112-pound match.

Tamir Amitai fought through a tough match at 125 pounds, but could not fend off a late third-round pin attempt with 1:47 left. The loss left Mercer Island with a slim three-point lead.

But Mercer Island would go on a scoring binge. First, Blake Johnson built up a 5-0 lead during the first round of the 130-pound match. But he would not need the lead, pinning his opponent as time expired during the first.

Two consecutive forfeits gave Mercer Island a 42-21 advantage as Islander senior David Bowman took to the mat at 145 pounds. Bowman began the match with fire, building an 11-2 lead partway through the second.

“I was hoping to get the pin, but in the middle I looked up and saw how many points I had and went for a major decision,” said Bowman.

That idea was dashed when Bowman’s own skill made it obsolete. With 45 seconds remaining in the match and up 16-5, Bowman finally pinned his worn-out opponent.

Islander Phil Frazier earned a 6-2 win at 152 pounds. The win continues Frazier’s hot streak as he took first place at 145 pounds during the Bainbridge Invitational tournament on Jan. 10. Mercer Island finished seventh out of 12 teams during the tournament.

Mercer Island also posted a 58-15 victory against Chief Sealth on Thursday.

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