Photo courtesy of Jamie Childress Mercer Island Islanders wrestler Donnie Howard (top) gains the upper hand against Juanita’s Nate Martin on Jan. 26. Howard earned a 6-0 win against Martin.

Howard is determined to place at the Mat Classic

In February 2016, Mercer Island freshman grappler Donnie Howard earned a berth at the Mat Classic Class 3A state tournament with a third place finish at regionals in the 182-pound division.

Unfortunately for Howard, a pre-planned family trip didn’t allow him to compete at the state tournament.

Howard, who said he has compiled a 10-0 record thus far during the 2016-17 regular season season in the 182-pound weight division, is striving to compete at the Mat Classic on Feb. 17 and Feb. 18 at the Tacoma Dome as a sophomore. Howard has to surpass the gauntlet of a formidable regional tournament in order to attain his goal.

“I’m super excited about the opportunity. I have a tough region this year and I’m hoping to make it to state. I want to make it to state and place at state,” Howard said with a smile.

Howard enjoys wrestling in the 182-pound weight division.

“Matches are about technique and the other portion is strength and quickness. If you can be quicker than your opponent and have more technique than them then you can win most of our matches at the upper weights,” Howard said.

Wrestling is in Howard’s blood. His older brother Trevor won a Class 3A state championship in the 275-pound weight class in 1997. Trevor wrestled collegiately for Syracuse University.

“I was raised in a wrestling family,” Howard said.

Howard utilizes a unique strategy in the wrestling circle that is rare for most grapplers. Typically when a wrestler is behind in a match after the first or second round, they will choose the down position if given the opportunity. It gives wrestlers an opportunity to record a valuable point if they can register an escape point.

Howard doesn’t enjoy being in the down position.

“I really love the neutral position. I’m comfortable all the time on my feet. That is where I like to work. When I’m neutral (position) I try to distract my opponent in as many ways as possible to get their mind off their legs so when I do shoot (single, double leg takedown), they’re not expecting it,” he said. “When I’m on the bottom (down position) and I’m wrestling a tough wrestler it is a lot harder to escape. I feel like I have an advantage when I’m in the neutral position.”

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