Not even a defeat in the Class 3A Mat Classic 195-pound championship match could dampen the spirits of Mercer Island junior wrestler Donnie Howard.
Lincoln Abes senior JJ Dixon may have registered an 8-1 win against Howard in the title match on Feb. 17 at the Tacoma Dome, but the grappler exuded pure class in defeat in the minutes following the final match of the 2017-18 season.
“It was a tough final match,” Howard said. “I definitely thought that I could have and should have done a lot better. I came out fired up and wrestled hard. The kid (Dixon) was just good. He was just better than me. That means I have stuff to improve upon but I’m so honored. I got second in the whole state of Washington. That is a real honor.”
Mercer Island head coach Lee Jahncke was impressed with Howard’s gutty performance during the two-day state tournament. Howard had an overall record of 3-1 at the tournament.
“It was some of the best wrestling I have ever seen from him in his entire career,” Jahncke said. “The match in the finals was against a really tough kid (Dixon). I’m just really proud of him for how he did over the course of the season and of course the state tournament.”
One of the highlights of the tournament for Howard occurred in the semifinals against Mount Spokane’s Mason Miethe. Howard pinned Miethe with just 1:25 remaining in the match, clinching a berth in the 195-pound title match. Howard lost to Miethe at the regional tournament in Spokane on Feb. 10.
“I had so much adrenaline,” Howard said. “I went out there fired up and wrestled a good match. I watched him the whole tournament. I knew what to expect. I implemented that in my mind and I just had to execute.”
Jahcnke was impressed with Howard’s mental toughness in the semifinal matchup.
“Being able to battle back and beat a kid who had beaten him earlier (regionals) was pretty amazing,” Jahncke said. “Donnie wrestled super smart. He was controlled, he was making good choices and he wrestled really tough. Donnie came in as a fourth seed out of regionals and went to the state finals. That doesn’t happen very often. We’re really proud of him.”