Prep wrestling: For Nguyen brothers, district is job No. 1

Evergreen wrestlers take first step toward ultimate goal

By Paul Valencia, Columbian high school sports reporter

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It’s a number, just a number, Michael Nguyen said.

Oh, but c’mon, it’s a cool number. Especially when we’re talking rankings.

Evergreen wrestlers Michael Nguyen (113 pounds) and Matthew Nguyen (120) are both ranked No. 1 in the state by the Washington Wrestling Report.

The rankings are based on past performances. Michael won a Class 4A state title last year, while Matthew finished second.

They are based on current performance. Both have only lost one time this season.

And it is could be a predictor for things to come. Michael is looking to defend his state title. Matthew said he won’t be satisfied unless he wins state this season.

But first, they’ve got to get there.

This is district wrestling weekend for the boys and sub-regional for the girls. At the 4A district Saturday night at Heritage High School, the top three boys advanced to regionals. The top five girls at sub-regionals made it to regionals next week.

As expected, the Nguyen brothers rolled into the next stage, taking home district titles for the Plainsmen.

“It’s another step toward the ultimate goal, to get another state title,” Michael Nguyen said. “I want to feel that win again at the Tacoma Dome. It sticks with you. I want to see what it feels like to win two in a row.”

For Matthew, the sting of losing in the championship match has stuck with him. He dedicated himself this summer to making sure that won’t happen again this year.

He appreciates the ranking, knowing that others in the wrestling community expect big things of him. Still, it is not easy.

“It’s a lot of pressure,” Matthew said. “You’re No. 1. You’ve got to prove it every time you wrestle. I like it, though. I love it. It’s a great feeling.”

Michael said the number puts a target on his back.

“It’s just a number,” Michael said. “If I mess up, the whole dream is over.”

Michael ended up pinning his opponent, Cody Hersel of Union, in the district finals. However, Hersel did get a reversal to put Michael in a bad spot in the first period.

“Oh my God. I’m on my back,” Michael recalled thinking.

“There was no way I could live with myself if I lost on my way up to the ultimate goal,” he added. “I refuse to lose.”

Even though both brothers have higher aspirations than district, Matthew said he still gets a thrill from winning this smaller tournament.

“It means I finished my senior year perfectly in Clark County,” he said.

Now, the Nguyen brothers hope to prove those top rankings in the next two weeks -- regionals and then Mat Classic in Tacoma.

Union rolled to the district team championship, topping Evergreen 290-239.5.

The Titans had five individual champions -- Daniel Rice (106), Tyler Davis (132), JoJo Reynolds (152), Dillon Thomas (170), and Bryson Page (195).

Also winning district titles on Saturday were Ramon Ortiz of Evergreen (126), Adam Peterson (138) and Shawn Speer (145) of Battle Ground, Anthony Thomas of Evergreen (160), Skyview’s Riley Bockmeier (220) and Heritage’s Devin Adler (182) and Ian Overton (285).

At the girls sub-regionals, Kelso topped the team standings with 255 points. Battle Ground was second at 134.

Battle Ground (Kassi Strano, Hannah Vanosdel, and Mixtly Simon) and Mountain View (Kyra Batara, Danielle Higgins, and Rose Eram) each had three champions.

Union’s Tiffany Hu and Evergreen’s Stephanie Simon also won sub-regional titles.