TACOMA — CJ Hamblin flashed style.
Alex Ford sprang a surprise.
Faith Tarrant survived suspense.
Clark County’s three state wrestling champions each earned their titles in different but no less thrilling manners at Mat Classic XXXIII on Saturday at the Tacoma Dome.
There was Hamblin, who ended his high school career with an exclamation point and a third state title.
The Mountain View senior couldn’t be corralled, especially in the Class 3A 170-pound title match. Hamblin beat Walla Walla’s Jake Humphrey 17-5 in a fashion even more dominant than that lopsided score.
Hamblin scored seemingly at will, shooting for a two-point takedown then purposely letting Humphrey up so he could come back for more.
When it was over, Hamblin did a running hand-spring flip toward his corner. It was a fitting final moment of an exceptional high school career that would have likely included four state titles had last year’s Mat Classic not been canceled due to COVID.
Instead, Hamblin becomes the 98th three-time wrestling champion in state history. He lost only three times in his career and brought Seton Catholic two individual state titles before joining his neighborhood school, Mountain View.
“It was amazing, to be honest with you,” said Hamblin, who has signed with Oregon State. “I sat there and said, I’m not going to cry. This is just a new stepping stone. But I hugged my cousin and tears of joy came out.”
Hamblin winning state titles has been a recent rite of winter. But Ford did something on Saturday that hadn’t happened in decades.
Ford became Prairie’s first state wrestling champion since Jay Rogers won titles in 1986 and ’87.
For more than a moment, Ford’s win seemed unlikely. He trailed Mead’s Austen Justice 5-1 in the second period of the 3A 160-pound title match.
But in a flurry, Ford overpowered his opponent, locked him in a cradle and drove Justice’s shoulders to the mat for a pin.
Not bad for a junior who entered the tournament with a goal of placing in the top eight.
“I didn’t know if I could believe it,” Ford said about when the referee signaled the pin. “I didn’t know if I should let go or not.”
Prairie coach Rob Smith said if any wrestler can never be counted out, it’s Ford.
“Alex is never going to give up,” Smith said. “If he was down 14-0 he’d wrestle exactly the same and go for that one move to win the match.”
Ford, who Smith called “the most humble guy in the world,” said his share of school history is meant to be shared.
“I feel like I won it for more people than just me,” Ford said. “For all my partners that have helped me grow. Those are really important people to me. I feel like I won it with their help.”
Tarrant can also claim school history and a crew to share it with.
The freshman became Prairie’s first girls state wrestling champ when she pinned Toppenish’s Makayla Torres in overtime of the 235-pound title match.
Tarrant saw a 2-0 lead become a 3-2 deficit in the third period. She tied the match when Torres was penalized for stalling with 34 seconds left in regulation.
Tarrant was too strong in overtime, throwing Torres on her back before covering up for the pin.
“It came down to who wanted it more and I really wanted it,” Tarrant said. “My coaches always taught me that I have to push through. When it gets to overtime is when you work your hardest. That’s what I did.”
Tarrant’s win sparked a loud, joyous celebration from her teammates and Prairie supporters. It wasn’t something she could have predicted when she moved in October from Colorado to a school where she knew nobody.
“I didn’t really think I was going to have any friends,” Tarrant said. “This team has made a family for me. I love it.”
Union’s Dylan Dalgord was the lone other Clark County wrestler to reach the state finals.
Though he was pinned in the third period of the 4A 120-pound title match by South Kitsap’s Stone Hartford, Dalgord held his head high.
It’s easy to see why. Dalgord was unranked before the district tournament and only got on the statewide radar when he won a regional title the prior week.
“This year, to finally make it to state and make the finals, I’m blessed for that,” said Dalgord, a senior. “When I went into this, nobody knew who I was. I had to show up until my name is everywhere.”
Two other Southwest Washington wrestlers earned state titles. Kelso’s Ethan Freund earned the 132-pound crown at 3A. Kalama’s Ian Campbell claimed the 2B/1B title at 138 pounds.