Tayler Shega took two years away from the sport but now is ranked in the top five in his weight class
VANCOUVER — Tayler Shega is the exception in this sport.
Great careers usually mean four years of tireless training in the wrestling room.
But an injury ruined his freshman season.
Then he didn’t even wrestle his next two seasons.
Now as a senior, Shega is going to Mat Classic with a 20-3 record, representing King’s Way Christian, and is ranked fifth in his weight class.
“I really don’t know,” he said, sounding genuinely perplexed on just how he went from a non-participant to possibly placing at the state championships.
“I came in this year, and I just started winning more matches,” he said. “I don’t understand it.”
His coach does.
“I can attest that his focus and attention to getting better is very high compared to quite a few wrestlers that I’ve coached,” Gary Armstrong said. “That’s a huge difference. When he comes to practice, he’s very focused: ‘I have a job to do, and that is I have got to get better.’ And he works on that.
“From a coaching standpoint, that’s what I see. That’s why he is as good as he is.”
The inner drive to improve is consistent with Shega’s present-day character.
Shega was a three-sport athlete at Camas High School his freshman year — football, wrestling, and baseball. He was down to two sports as a sophomore there, but he was not doing his job as a student.
“I felt like I needed a change,” Shega said. “The class sizes (at King’s Way Christian), I felt, would help me be more successful as a student.”
He became a Knight as a junior.
Since then, his grade-point average has jumped a point.
Still, he wasn’t ready to return to wrestling right away. He thought about it as a junior but stayed away from the mat one more year.
Senior year, he jumped at the opportunity.
“At King’s Way, with 215 kids in the school, you need a lot of three-sport athletes to make sports successful here,” Shega said. “Figured I’d come back out and try it again. I was having fun. That just led me to keep going.”
Freshman year at Camas seems so long ago now. He broke his arm in the first tournament of that year.
“I sat there for a second. My arm started hurting,” Shega recalled. “I could see it wasn’t where it was supposed to be.”
That did not end his season, though. He remained on the team and healed in time to return just before the postseason. He went 0-2 at district.
“It just wasn’t a great year for me,” he said.
As a sophomore, he focused on football and baseball. He said he “replaced” his winter sport, wrestling, with the weight room, trying to get bigger and stronger for his other sports.
Then he had a year of adjustment at King’s Way before returning to wrestling.
“I have a very love-hate relationship with wrestling,” he says now, with a smile. “Winning is very fun.”
He appreciates the one-on-one aspect of the sport.
“It’s just you. You can’t blame it on anyone else, but you also get all the credit for the win. The win is on you. The loss is also on you.”
He has experienced a lot more wins than losses this season. The Washington Wrestling Report has him ranked at No. 5 in Class 1A 195 pounds.
Shega wants more than a top-five finish, though.
“It’s got to be to win state,” he said of his goal. “If you shoot for anything lower, then you take away options.”
If he does finish on top Saturday night, that would be one of the more unlikely championships in recent memory for Southwest Washington wrestlers. No one knows who Shega is, right? The guy had an 0-2 postseason record in his career before this season.
“That’s the best thing about it,” Shega said, adding that he has gone to tournaments this season with no credentials, so he would never be seeded very high. Then he would “break the bracket.”
He also is proud to represent King’s Way Christian at Mat Classic. The Knights had four wrestlers go to district, two advanced to regionals, and Shega qualified for state.
Shega hopes to encourage more Knights to compete in the future.
“My goal is to try to help get the program known,” Shega said. “By getting to state and having success there … if you have success, you get people to come out for the sport.”
It took Tayler Shega a couple years to get back into the sport, but here he is, surprising even himself with his performance.
But again, his coach is not surprised.
Once Tayler Shega returned to the mat, he was all-in, focused, and ready to make up for lost time. Note: For a list of all Clark County wrestlers who have qualified for Mat Classic, see our earlier story: https://www.clarkcountytoday.com/sports/mat-classic-to-feature-82-wrestlers-from-clark-county/