TACOMA — Want a title for Port Angeles heavyweight John Camp’s march toward the Class 3A state crown? Let’s go with “Done in 60 seconds.”
The Roughrider senior steamrolled his way to the 285-pound state crown, the first and only state placement of his four-year wrestling career, with four straight pins in less than a minute, leading an unprecedented North Olympic Peninsula showing at Mat Classic XXI this weekend.
Camp’s 38-second pin of Mount Si’s Ryan Ransavage in the final, coming before the public address introductions were even finished, capped an incredible 40-0 season that saw all 40 victories come by pin.
“That’s pretty close to perfect,” Camp said, showing some modesty. “It’s amazing. It hasn’t really set in yet. It’s a great feeling, I love it.”
“I’ve never heard of a kid going undefeated with all pins,” Port Angeles coach Erik Gonzalez said.
“I’ve never seen a kid as focused heading into the state tournament as John was. He was on a mission, there’s no question about that.”
Camp wasn’t the only Peninsula wrestler to go undefeated this championship weekend, just the most dominant.
Forks’ 215-pounder Luke Dixon also went 4-0 to claim a 1A state championship, doing so with one pin and a trio of decision victories, including a 7-3 win over Connell’s Nato Orozco in the final.
It was the senior’s second straight placement at state, having taken third at 189 in 2008.
“We probably have had a couple wrestlers that are technically better [than Dixon at Forks],” longtime Spartans coach Bob Wheeler said of his fifth state champion.
“I don’t think we’ve ever had anybody any better at just sheer power, and determination to control the match. He’s just a tough kid, a strong kid.
“I really thought he’d handle the kid more than he did [in the final].”
As it was, Dixon had control most of the match, taking a 3-0 lead midway through the second period. Orozco got to within one at 3-2 with a pair of escapes, but Dixon slammed the door shut in third with a pair of takedowns.
“This was what I’ve been working for for four years now,” Dixon said.
“We didn’t get a state championship during football, so the next one up was wrestling. I worked my butt off in order to win this match, and it means the world to me.”
Dixon’s title was the first for Forks since 2000 when Kelly Banner won the 135-pound 2A title.
Camp’s was the first for Port Angeles since 2003, when Julio Garcia took the 4A 125-pound crown. Garcia’s was also the last won by a Peninsula athlete and only one, prior to Saturday, won by a Rider.
Port Angeles’ Jessica Cooper came awfully close to matching Camp, winning three straight matches via pin to reach the girls’ 135-pound final.
Yet the senior fell victim to her own craft with first place on the line, bowing out to Kiona-Benton’s Sheridan McDonald in a one-minute, 41-second fall for a second-place finish.
“I tried to shoot but my arms were out too far, I didn’t keep my elbows bent, and she caught me,” Cooper said.
“I couldn’t breath, so I just kind of gave up.”
Said Gonzalez, “She had an incredible run these last three weeks. She’s the first girl we’ve ever had that’s stuck it out in our program.
“And obviously she’s the first placer, and now two-time state placer, we’ve ever had. If I was a betting man I wouldn’t bet on another girl coming through [PA] like Jessica Cooper.”
A total of 13 Peninsula wrestlers, including a decade-best 11 boys, placed at this weekend’s Mat Classic.
All four schools — Port Angeles, Sequim, Port Townsend and Forks — had at least three wrestlers place, led by Sequim’s four. Each of the three other schools had three reach the second day.
For Port Angeles, Camp and teammate Adam Raemer’s fifth-place finish broke a six-year drought that saw the Rider boys go without a placement since 2003.
And it was Camp’s title-winning performance that stole the show among the Peninsula’s contingent.
By pinning Ransavage for the third time this year in the final, Camp was able to put behind him a 1-4 in two prior state tournament appearances, as well as honor his mother, Vale, who died on Port Angeles’ Homecoming night last fall.
“She’d be really proud of me right now,” Camp said. “She really liked watching me wrestle. It feels good. I know she’d be really happy.”
Camp spent a total of 2:22 on the mat during his title run. And he saved his best for last against Ransavage, putting him on the mat in 39 seconds.
“He was already in [Ransavage’s] head,” Gonzalez said, referring to Camp’s two other wins over the Mount Si product.
“When you’ve got a kid beat before you even step out on the mat, it’s probably not going to go very long.”
Port Townsend’s Brett Johnson took third in the 1A 152-pound bracket to lead a contingent of three Redskin placers. He was also one of seven Peninsula wrestlers to reach the semifinals during the tournament.
Yet just like three others — PA’s Raemer, Sequim’s Thomas Gallagher and Forks’ Brien Jaksha — he dropped to the consolation bracket after losing the penultimate match.
The junior responded with back-to-back victories to take third, topping off his tournament with a narrow 2-1 win over Castle Rock’s Zeke Lomer.
Teammate’s Gatlin Hanna (189) and Josh Holbrook (135) each scored eighth-place finishes as the Redskins other placers.
“I’m pretty satisfied,” Johnson said. “I had the dream of getting the win, but I’m pretty happy with myself right now. I’m having a lot of fun. I’m going to go up [to the stands] and get my victory orange from my grandma. I’m happy.”
Surely, that orange tasted as sweet as an this season.
There were a couple of more bittersweet finishes for two other Peninsula semifinalists: Sequim’s Gallagher (285) and Forks’ Jaksha.
For Jaksha, an early run to the semis was followed by a 1-2 finish on Saturday that included a heart-breaking 6-4 loss in the third-place match that ended with a last-second takedown by his opponent. Tyler Cortani was the Spartans’ other placer, taking eighth at 103.
Meanwhile Gallagher, also reached the semis in the 2A heavyweight division before dropping three straight to finish sixth in 2A at 285.
“I didn’t even think I’d get this far,” Gallagher said of his run to the semis. “My goal was top six. I’ve been working with [former state champion Kyle Keith] all year, and that’s made me loads better.”
Sequim seniors Ethan Hinton (189) and Joe Hutchison each went 3-2 to earn their second straight placements, both taking seventh and finishing out their careers with a win. Senior Sarah Keltonic earned her first placement for the Wolves, taking sixth in the 140-pound girls tournament.