By Dan Trujillo
History was made in the warehouse Wednesday, when the Camas wrestling team broke the hammerlock Union had on the Greater St. Helens League for the last 10 years.
Down by 20 points with four matches left, Jack Latimer, Tanner Craig, Rylan Thompson and Karter Leifsen pinned Titans in succession to help the Papermakers win 39-35.
“I’ve never been a part of a dual like that where there were so many wrestlers, families and students. It was just a cool atmosphere,” said Camas head coach Cory VomBaur. “You had a lot of Union and Camas fans on both sides. That’s the way these two schools are, but wrestling hasn’t stepped into that dynamic until now.”
Union led 11-0, until Colby Stoller brought the Papermakers back from the brink by pinning his opponent. Sam Malychewski stuck a Titan that out-weighed him by more than 20 pounds.
“The first period, I shot in and felt how strong he was. It was a little intimidating,” Malychewski said. “I just pushed through that. I was happy to get that pin.”
Camas was still on the ropes. Ryan Ball saved the Papermakers when he rallied to defeat Brandon Esperto 6-4. The Titans countered with another pinfall victory to increase their advantage to 35-15.
But, that’s when Camas dropped the hammer down.
Latimer pinned Union senior Aaron Avery in the third round. Craig and Thompson pinned a couple of freshmen. All the sudden, the Papermakers trimmed the Titan lead to 35-33.
It was all up the Leifsen. He had to wrestle a senior who placed fifth at the Pacific Coast Championships.
“I went out there and tried to block as much of the pressure as I could,” Leifsen said. “I approached it like any other match, wrestled my hardest and stuck him.”
Leifsen locked in a near fall during the first round. The Camas wrestlers, coaches and fans were on pins and needles. Leifsen led 7-0. All the Papermakers needed was those three points. But, he wanted more.
“Thirty seconds in, you could see Karter had something the other guy didn’t have,” VomBaur said. “We relaxed when he was up 7-0. All the sudden, Karter puts that guy on his back again. You could see it starting to sink in. Isaac was starting to fade. The pin was coming. We all knew it that time.”
Leifsen kept waiting to hear the referee slap his hand on the mat.
“I heard the crowd go crazy and I knew it was over,” he said. “Just the roar of the crowd when I heard that slap on the mat is something I’m never going to forget.”
When this wrestling rivalry started 10 years ago. Camas coaches Glenn Hartman and Brody Faler came up with a concept they called “The Battle for the Paddle.” Both schools are located on opposite sides of Lacamas Lake.
Union won the paddle in 2008, and has held on to it ever since. So long, that these Camas coaches and wrestlers had no idea this paddle even existed until the Titans gave it back to the Papermakers Wednesday.
“Never heard about this paddle in my whole life,” Latimer said. “It’s like a bonus. We have something to keep.”
“We just made history,” Thompson said.
Camas has an opportunity to win its first 4A Greater St. Helens League wrestling championship if it can beat Battle Ground Wednesday, Jan. 17.
The Papermakers are also hosting the district tournament Saturday, Feb. 3.
“Let’s not get complacent. Let’s strive to do better,” Malychewski said. “There’s a reason why they had that paddle for 10 years. We have to build off this for years to come.”
This was a night to remember for Camas Papermakers, young and old. Craig summarized the history made perfectly.
“We knew we needed to get those four pins. We were all hoping and praying,” he said. “It happened. It was the craziest day of the year.”
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