My affinity for the sport of wrestling has never wavered since I began my career as a sports writer in 2005 at the Northern Kittitas County Tribune in Cle Elum.
The Mat Classic state wrestling tournament, which takes place annually in mid-February at the Tacoma Dome and includes every classification in Washington, is undoubtedly my favorite sporting event of the year to cover.
I will never forget attending my first state tournament in February 2006 watching Cle-Elum wrestlers Cody Vandeventer and Matt Mackenzie compete valiantly in their respective weight classes before being eliminated on the first day of the tournament. The competition was fierce and both grapplers gave it everything they had against the best wrestlers in the state in the 1A classification.
Since that Friday in 2006, I have covered 10 of the next 11 state wrestling tournaments at the Tacoma Dome. It is definitely a weekend that is circled on my calendar every year.
The work ethic wrestlers are required to exude in order to experience the success they desire requires discipline 24 hours per day. Wrestling is a sport about sacrifice. With the exception of the Mat Classic, there isn’t typically a lot of fanfare for the sport and the bleachers at most dual matches are usually not filled to capacity.
Wrestling is one of those sports that tests an individuals intestinal fortitude to the max. When a wrestler is on the mat, they are all alone. It’s simply that individual against their opponent. Coaches and teammates can shout words of encouragement/instructions from the edges of the mat, but the fact remains a wrestler is all by themselves inside the circle.
All the preparation they’ve put forth will or will not show up during the six-minute match and possible overtime sessions. Wrestling simply builds character and is one of the most physically taxing sports someone will ever take part in. Instead of a can of soda, a wrestler will reach for a bottled water. Instead of a double cheeseburger, a grappler will instead devour a salad. Instead of sleeping in on Saturday mornings like their buddies, a wrestler will go for a two-mile jog to ensure there is no drop-off in physical fitness. These lessons grapplers learn while partaking in wrestling will stick with them for the rest of their lives. It doesn’t get any better than that.