Wrestling: State-placing seniors lead the way at Mountain View

Yamashita, Dixon provide leadership for Thunder

By Paul Valencia, Columbian high school sports reporter

Published:

 

It was some serious training.

Eight days.

Strength workouts.

Leadership workshops.

Those who were there were training to become champions.

WRESTLERS TO WATCH

Local returning state placers with their projected competition weight this season:

CLASS 4A

Ramon Ortiz, sr., Evergreen (3rd, 126)

Tye Lommasson, sr., Camas (2nd, 132)

Junior Godinho, sr., Union (4th, 138)

Sam Berry, sr., Union (7th, 152)

Jeremiah Reynolds, sr., Union (7th 160)

Alex Berfanger, jr., Union (8th, 182)

Tyler Dady, sr., Battle Ground (8th, 220)

Austin Wright, jr., Evergreen (6th 285)

CLASS 3A

Benny Dixon, sr., Mountain View (6th, 113)

Kenji Yamashita, sr., Mountain View (4th, 138)

Aaron Blaine, sr., Hudson’s Bay (8th, 152)

Gunnar Metzger, sr., Hudson’s Bay (3rd, 160)

Mario Gonzalez, sr., Prairie (6th, 160)

Dallas Goodpaster, so., Prairie (5th, 220)

CLASS 2A

Zach Oster, jr., Washougal (7th, 106)

CLASS 1A

Tyler Miller, sr., Stevenson (2nd, 138)

Zach Wardle, sr., Woodland (5th, 195)

Benjamin Dixon and Kenji Yamashita were there in the summer of 2012, the Washington Intensive Camp in Spokane, two wrestlers from Mountain View just trying to make themselves better.

Seven months later, they were on the podium at the Class 3A state wrestling championships. Yamashita finished fourth in the 138-pound weight class and Dixon took sixth at 113 pounds at Mat Classic.

This past summer, Dixon and Yamashita were back at the camp, but this time they had company from Mountain View. Emanuel Mendez, Brandon Proffitt and Nathan Wu joined them.

They all are hoping for big-time results come February.

"I'm really a team player," Yamashita said. "I like to help everyone, bring everyone up with me. It's better than standing alone. It's better if you have a whole team supporting you."

Mountain View won its second consecutive district team title last season, then followed that up with a regional championship -- a first for the program.

"We want to repeat history," Dixon said. "Do what we did last year, maybe get even further. We're strong enough."

Mountain View has never finished in the top five in the team standings at Mat Classic, and the Thunder have never had an individual state champion.

"Chipman's mustache would get shaved off," Yamashita said if the Thunder get a an individual champion.

That would be Mountain View coach Travis Chipman, who has been in charge of something special with the Thunder. Last season marked the first time the program won district in consecutive seasons. But last year is last year. This team is all about this season.

In the wrestling room at Mountain View there is a picture of Mat Classic in the Tacoma Dome along with these words: "20,000 fans, 24 mats, and you."

"That's been our focus as a team, making sure everyone is better throughout the year so we can compete at the state tournament," Chipman said. "That's been our rally cry: 'Be better.' "

Mountain View will host the prestigious Clark County Wrestling Championships later this month. The team also is competing in the Pacific Coast Championship tournament Friday and Saturday, an event hosted by the Evergreen Plainsmen but taking place at the larger venue of Hudson's Bay High School.

Dixon and Yamashita, two senior leaders, are doing their part to lead their teammates in this special season for the Thunder.

Wrestling can be a grind, all the conditioning and drill after drill. Dixon said it takes a special kind of athlete to endure. However, it is easier when there is a team atmosphere in the wrestling room.

"I met most of my best friends through wrestling," Dixon said. "Getting through hard practices only happens with your team, with your friends. Your team is like your family. Once we get in there, there's an energy. You don't want to let the team down. You have to be there for your team."

They also must be able to push each other, and that means going full force against your friends in practice. You are not doing your teammate any favors by not going 100 percent.

"That's how you get better," Dixon said. "Once we're wrestling live, we're going at it. We have to take it like it's a real match."

Dixon said his goal is to win state this year. Wrestling at 120 pounds now, he might compete at 113 at state.

Yamashita ended up going to the championship semifinals last season before finishing fourth at 138 pounds.

"I could taste it. I was one match away from being in the finals," Yamashita said. "This year, I hope I can get past that semifinal match. I've wrestled since the third grade. Everyone's always talking about a state championship. It takes a lot of time and commitment."

Which is why he and Dixon returned to that camp this past summer. And convinced other Thunder wrestlers to go, too.

"At the end of the season, we were the ones who placed at state," Yamashita said, referring to Dixon and himself. "We realized how much it helped."

So they spread the news to their family.

More members of the Thunder competed at that camp in Spokane, and now they all begin 2014 with a mission to become the best wrestling team in the history of Mountain View.