Prairie wrestlers took unusual paths to state championships

Treadwell, Gonzalez, Duncan have stories to tell

By Paul Valencia, Columbian high school sports reporter



Definition of happiness? Wil Treadwell after winning a regional title Saturday:

"Oh my God. It's unbelievable. I'm a three-time state alternate. I've always been one match away, one match away. This year, to get to that next level, finally. I have so many people supporting me tonight. I've had people I don't even know wish me good luck. I'm ecstatic. I just have to thank everybody, you know. I put in the hours, my senior year, for quality, quality work, and it paid off. Do you want to pinch me? I don't really know what just happened there. Right now, I just want to go hug everybody."

Wil Treadwell appeared to be the happiest wrestler in the state last week after winning a Class 3A regional title.

It turned out, it was more like relief.

"It's like you have King Kong on your back and finally get him off your back," Treadwell said. "It's a huge pressure, finally relieved."

Treadwell, a senior from Prairie, is going to the state tournament for the first time, which begins Friday in the Tacoma Dome. The last three years, he was one match away from qualifying for Mat Classic.

"Everybody in this room makes jokes about it every other day," he said, referring to his teammates who good-naturedly gave him a hard time. "Every single day you get reminded you are a three-time alternate."

Not anymore.

Now, Treadwell is a one-time regional champion.

His story of perseverance pretty much sums up all of the Prairie wrestlers.

Last week, seven Falcons made it to regionals, and all seven made it to state:

Tyler Duncan won a regional title at 182 pounds. Freshman Dallas Goodpaster is the regional champion at 220. Mario Gonzalez, a junior, won at 160 pounds, and if he hadn't, then another Falcon would have won. Luke Middelstadt took second, falling to Gonzalez in the championship match. Ronnie Evenden also qualified for state with a third-place finish at 170 pounds.

They will be joined in the Tacoma Dome by Prairie's lone female wrestler. Quinn O'Bryant was a second-place finisher in the girls wrestling regional at 100 pounds.

"As a team, I'm proud. That's very impressive," Gonzalez said.

Impressive, too, is the way Gonzalez and Duncan won their regional titles. Like Treadwell, their stories are unorthodox.

Often, one can see slight improvement from year to year in the district and then regional tournaments. Maybe a fourth-place finish one year, then second, then first, for example. With these three Falcons, they all seemed to hit their peak at the same time.

Gonzalez, a junior, had never made it out of district before this year. Duncan had never won a varsity tournament until 3A regional in Kelso last weekend.

"It clicked during the summer," Gonzalez said. "My mind just said I was meant for wrestling. It was literally like an on-off switch. It clicked."

Gonzalez has lost four times this season and not once since December.

"I have learned from all four of those losses," he said.

Duncan, a junior, only wrestled two tournaments as a freshman before an injury wiped away his season. His sophomore year, he acknowledged, "I didn't know what I was doing."

This season, there were some ups and downs. He came close at a couple of tournaments, only to see one mistake cost him a chance at a title. The mental drain of wrestling was weighing on Duncan.

"It's tough for me. It all lands on you. The only person you have to blame is yourself if you lose," he said. "I had a lot of breakdowns this year, after a tough loss, not wanting to wrestle. Mario kept my head in it. He told me everything would be fine."

When Duncan won his regional title Saturday night, he had no idea how big it was going to be for him.

"The whole week has been awesome," he said. "A lot of people at school coming up to me to congratulate me, even people I don't know saying 'Great job.' Tons of people. I have a lot of support."

The most support comes from those he wrestles with every day in practice. Which is why the seven Prairie state competitors are celebrating each other's accomplishments, not just their own.

"We have faith in this team," Treadwell said.

The Falcons, led by their senior, kept battling. They endured the oh-so-close moments of heartache. This week, they get their reward, knowing that they got to state the only way wrestlers can make it: by earning that trip to Tacoma.