By Dan Trujillo
Tanner Craig unleashed the beast within him and became a State Champion at the Tacoma Dome Saturday.
Down 1-0 in the final round, the Camas High School junior turned the tables on Sumner’s CJ Richmond with about 20 seconds left on the clock. Craig gained a 2-1 advantage and held on to it until time expired.
“I could feel like he was slipping off and I knew I could go for a reversal or go for an escape,” Craig said. “I just thought, reversal. Get my two and try and ride him out … and that’s what I did.”
When the referee signaled that the match was over, Craig’s scream could be heard around the dome. He might be 132 pounds, but he still flexed his muscles like the Incredible Hulk.
“It felt so good, like everything I dreamed of,” he said.
Craig got into the championship match in stunning fashion. He outlasted Isaiah Gonzalez, of Pasco, in overtime. Craig pinned Enumclaw’s Aidan Carroll in the first round, and then defeated Tahoma’s Cameron Hanson 3-1 in the quarterfinals.
“My coaches and teammates have been pushing me ever since I lost and got eighth here last year,” Craig said. “Running a mile every day before practice. Running sprints every day after practice. Working with coaches every single day. It sucks all year … and it’s just paid off in the end.”
Craig watched the rest of the championship matches from the upper deck. He listened to how the crowd reacted to every big move from the little mats on the floor and smiled.
“It’s so much fun seeing every one who loves wrestling and appreciates how much work goes into to it,” he said.
So what does a high school state champion do for an encore when he has another year of high school left?
“I want to be a two-time champion, just like my dad,” he said.
His father, Pat, won two state titles for North Bend and went on to wrestle for the University of Oregon.
“I learned my dad was a two-time state champion when I was little,” Tanner said. “Ever since I could understand what that meant, I’ve been wanting to do that and striving to reach that level.”
The Camas wrestling team made history at the Tacoma Dome. Jack Latimer and Sam Malychewski earned third-place medals, and Rylan Thompson and Gideon Malychewski finished in fourth place. This helped the Papermakers rise up to fifth place in the team standings with 90 points.
Head coach Cory VomBaur believes this is the best finish for Camas at state in the school’s history. Tanner Craig, Latimer, Gideon Malychewski, Isaac Duncan and Colby Stoller want more next year.
“We’re going to make it even higher next year,” Craig said. “Top three, hopefully. We’re all aiming for that number-one spot.”