Prairie, Union, La Center wrestlers looking forward to strong finish this season
It was competition as usual when the Clark County Wrestling Championships were held last weekend.
In all, 27 individual champions were crowned in boys and girls brackets. Two team champions, as well.
It is an annual tradition, and while the results do not have an impact on the postseason, it is one of the big events of the wrestling season.
This year, it meant a little bit more. Because the event came just a couple of weeks after the county shut down the sport. Or, rather, recommended that wrestling was put on pause. However you want to phrase it.
While grateful that the sport has resumed, many wrestlers are still disappointed that their season was stopped for a few weeks. We talked to three Clark County champions, to get a feel for what high school wrestlers are thinking as the set to prepare for the remainder of their season.
Yana Paskar, a senior from Prairie, won the 145-pound title in the girls tournament at Clark County.
She noted, like many wrestlers have said during the pandemic, that the sport was more prepared for anything like this long before the pandemic.
“We talk to our teammates and everyone about cleanliness,” Paskar said. “Always wipe down mats before practice. We were very meticulous about these types of things.”
It is a high-contact sport in the winter, traditional cold and flu season. Coaches have been attending clinics for years regarding safety standards.
Then the pandemic hit.
“When it comes to COVID, we do everything in our power to prevent anything from spreading,” Paskar said. “For wrestling to be singled out and to be suspended for two weeks was really hard. Some of us, seniors especially, our time is limited. To be singled out … we’re being more careful about this than other (sports).”
Just a quick look on social media every day and one can find basketball teams scrambling to find opponents because another team’s outbreak caused the postponement of a game. Been happening for weeks all over the state. But that sport was not suspended. Wrestlers wonder why.
Union senior Elijah Cassidy won the 145-pound title in the boys bracket.
“We kind of got screwed compared to the other sports,” he said.
The state department of health did call out four wrestling events in December that they say led to the spread of COVID. That is when Clark County health officials recommended the sport be put on pause.
“Other sports weren’t (suspended). It’s not our fault. We didn’t have a lot of cases (at Union),” Cassidy said. “Other sports did. We got shut down and they didn’t. It really took a lot from our season. We lost a lot of kids.”
Cassidy said many wrestlers chose not to return to teams after the two-week shutdown, for fear of it being shut down again or simply out of frustration. A wrestler trains with his teammates every day for competition. When that routine goes away, it can be difficult to get back into it.
Leah Wallway, a freshman from La Center, won the 100 pound title in the girls bracket. She was the only Class 1A athlete to take home a title this year. She is thrilled to be a Clark County champion but still bummed about losing out on a portion of the season.
“I was a little bit upset. Once they said that, I was like, ‘Are you kidding me?’ I wanted a complete freshman year,” she said.
Wrestling is a way of life for these athletes.
“Wrestling means everything to me,” Paskar said. “I don’t know where I’d be without wrestling. I joined by accident. I started as a manager for the wrestling team. I just fell in love with the sport. With wrestling, I have been able to be more confident in myself. I feel everything in life feels so much easier after you wrestle.”
A victory at Clark County was one of her goals before she graduated from high school.
“It was a blank moment for me. I couldn’t believe it,” Paskar said. “I almost forgot that they needed to raise my hand. I almost walked off the mat. My mind went blank but my body kept moving.”
Wallway knows wrestling is a team sport in terms of practice and preparation. But once competition starts, it is one-on-one.
“It’s you and another person. Eyeballs staring at you. It’s a really exciting feeling,” Wallway said. “It’s hard to explain. For me, stepping on to a mat, seeing one person right in front of me, I’m showing people what I’m capable of doing, myself. I’m not relying on a teammate to do something perfect. I’m relying on myself to go out there and take someone down.”
She said she surprised herself with her Clark County title in her first year in high school, although she has been in youth wrestling for years.
“To know where I placed at Clark County, it gives me an idea of who I’ll be competing with in state,” she said.
Cassidy won the Clark County event that was put on last year, during the abbreviated season. He said this year’s title is more significant.
“A lot more teams went this year than last year,” he said. “Just feels better to win it this year.
“I feel I’m truly the best in my county in my weight class.”
He also said that even after going through the shutdown, and having to deal with all the setbacks, the sport has made him and his fellow wrestlers even stronger.
“We’re building great young kids,” he said. “We’re bringing up kids who will know how to work hard in life and earn what they get in life.”
Clark County Wrestling Championships
A list of champions
106: Brody Davis, Washougal
113: Caleb Davis, Washougal
120: Noah Koyama, Union
126: Spencer Neeedham, Union
132: Owen Pritchard, Skyview
138: Tennyson Kurtz, Columbia River
145: Elijah Cassidy, Union
152: Ethan Joner, Battle Ground
160: Jon Schoenlein, Skyview
170: Alex Ford, Prairie
182: Caleb Blick, Prairie
195: Cody Wheeler, Hockinson
220: Henry Jones, Washougal
285: Averie Sikes, Union
Team champion: Union
100: Leah Wallway, La Center
105: Madison Nguyen, Columbia River
110: Uruwa Abe, Ridgefield
115: Aryan Benson, Mountain View
120: Yasmin Jaurez, Heritage
125: Kennedy Wilcox, Prairie
130: Janessa O’Connell, Union
135: Jaydalyn Alonso, Columbia River
145: Yana Paskar, Prairie
155: Kiersten Lees, Washougal
170: Lacey Klopman, Washougal
190: Tara Liebe, Kelso
235: Faith Tarrant, Prairie
Team champion: Prairie
Way to Go Cody Wheeler! You represented Hockinson well. Also impressed with Prairie’s program. They have some serious contenders coming up.
Awesome, congratulations to All you Wrestling Champions!!!