Pothoven takes No. 2 seed to state
By Matt Phelps
Mercer Island Reporter
Mercer Island senior Alex Faith has been through a lot as part of the wrestling program. During his freshman year, he wrestled in the 103-pound weight class and helped the Islanders to a league title. As a sophomore and junior, Faith was looked at as a leader with few seniors on the team. But in his final season as an Islander, the senior is on the verge of achieving legendary status in the program.
Faith won the district title in the 125-pound weight class on Saturday at Liberty High School and will take the No. 1 seed to the state tournament this weekend.
“This is one of the toughest regions in the state,” said Faith. “I think I will have the best possible seed. Momentum is huge, and I think I have that right now.”
The word momentum may not describe Faith’s performance at districts. The senior began the tournament with a 29-second pin and followed that up with a second-round pin 3:22 into the match. But the wins were on account of the senior doing his homework.
“I had a full scouting report on the first guy and used it, and I stuck him,” said Faith. “It just fell right into place.”
The senior entered the finals against an opponent who defeated him at districts twice in the past two years. The match began the same way as the previous two meetings, with Faith up 2-0. But instead of getting caught in a cradle pin, Faith scored two more points before finishing the match, shutting down his opponent from Mount Vernon 5-0.
“I think there is a psychological advantage at state to being the No. 1 seed,” said Mercer Island coach Creighton Laughary. “Alex was not going to be denied this time.”
Faith’s fellow senior and teammate for four seasons, Chris Pothoven, came within one victory of a district title. Pothoven used a distinct conditioning advantage to qualify as the No. 2 seed to state in the 215-pound weight class. Despite being ahead on points in both his first- and second-round matches, Pothoven wore down his opposition. The tall senior earned a pin with just 23 seconds remaining in his first-round match and then earned a pin with 55 seconds left in his second-round match.
“I knew I would have to work hard, and I saw the pin at the end and took advantage,” said Pothoven. “I think it is an advantage to have this tough of a region. If you can win here, you have a good chance at state.”
Pothoven will be positioned well this weekend despite losing the district final by a score of 17-7 to a Mount Vernon wrestler. He will take the No. 2 seed to the Mat Classic. The last state champion for Mercer Island was heavy weight Ben Mahdavi in 1998.
The only other Islander to place at the district meet was junior Graham Horgdal, who finished sixth at the 189-pound weight class. Horgdal managed to earn a district pin during his second match of the tournament at the 1:41 mark of the first round.
“This gave him some great experience for next year,” said Laughary. “It is a great achievement for a junior.”
Another wrestler who exceeded expectation this year was TJ Blackburn. The freshman, who took fourth place at the 3A KingCo tournament in the 189-pound weight class lost his two matches at districts but went the distance for a slim 8-2 loss during the second round.
“He has had a great year all around for a freshman,” said Laughary.
Freshman Kyle Shanafelt performed well at 103 pounds. The smallest Islander won two district matches, one by pin and the other by a score of 8-2 before bringing his season to an end in the consolation bracket. Mercer Island seniors Jackson Fischer and Tanner Linton’s careers came to a close during the tournament.
As a team, the Islanders placed eighth out of 19 teams.