It is one of my favorite events of the year.
I just hope it remains one of the top events of the year for the athletes.
Don't get me wrong. Wrestlers want to win. They want to win every tournament they compete in, every match against any opponent. Competition is a big deal, whether it is the state tournament or a dual match.
But it seems to me that the Clark County Wrestling Championships used to be a bigger deal to the wrestlers than it is these days.
In the last few years, I've noticed more and more athletes talking about it as just a stepping stone to bigger tournaments.
Or, worse, just another tournament.
I really hope I've just been asking the wrong questions to the champions I interview.
In my perfect world, Clark County Wrestling would be the centerpiece of the wrestling season -- until Mat Classic, the state championships.
Because what wrestling has with Clark County is unlike any other event in high school sports in Southwest Washington.
No classifications. Just competition. Big school vs. big school, small school vs. small school, and better yet, small school vs. big school.
Yes, there are some major cross country and track and field meets that invite several programs from Southwest Washington. Same with golf. But as far as I can tell, there is no true Clark County championship for those sports.
You win this thing in wrestling, you're the best in the county. Not just best in a six-team league. Best in the county.
"This is where I live. These are the people I live with, the people I grew up with. The best of the best in the county."
Scott Lindquist of Columbia River told me that in 2009, after he won his third Clark County title. It is one of my favorite quotes from one of my favorite events.
I hope most of the wrestlers feel the same way. It is special.
Joe Reed, Columbia River's wrestling coach, said he thinks the event remains special with the athletes. He pointed out how disappointed some of the second-place finishers appeared Saturday night.
For the most part, he said, wrestlers in Southwest Washington have so much respect for one another that they do not want to show up opponents after they have won.
Yet another reason this event is so special.
It is a one-on-one battle for six minutes on the mat, under the spotlight. The winner has bragging right for the county. But the winner does not need to brag.
Love this event.
• • •
I missed Clark County Wrestling last year so I was looking forward to this one. To give you a little behind-the-scenes look, here is what I did to approach the coverage plan.
Nowadays, there are two tournaments. Boys and girls. That's 26 champions, all from Clark County, 14 boys, 12 girls. (This year, there were 11 girls champions because one weight class had no participants.)
I cannot quote every winner in my two stories for print, so I try to look for other angles. I do not care so much about state rankings, not at this event. This is its own unique event.
I noted the previous champions. Then, if those guys defended their titles, I'd try to talk to them.
For the boys, three athletes defended their titles. Two others did not, so I interviewed the athletes who beat defending champions. I also made sure to quote an athlete from the winning team.
For the girls, similar approach. Defending champions or those who beat defending champions. In one case, a matchup of wrestlers who both finished second last year. Someone was going to get the big victory. And, of course, the team champion.
I don't always lead with the team, though. A couple years ago, Evergreen boys went 5-0 in the finals. The Plainsmen did not win the team title but got the lead in my story. After all, 5-0 is pretty awesome.
Anyway, I did not talk to everyone but I did list every winner in the stories.
• • •
Not everyone was happy with me. I got an interesting message on Twitter who claims we are biased for Union. (Of course, Union had eight wrestlers in the finals, won five titles, plus the team event, but that's beside the point!)
The Twitter message was vulgar and I cannot repeat it here. But the funny thing was the guy who sent me the message quotes Gandhi on his Twitter bio.
Gandhi does not strike me as being the vulgar type.
So to the man who sent the message, I say:
You stay classy AND ironic.