Rematch lives up to its billing

South Kitsap’s Brent Chriswell had been looking forward to this moment for the last 11 months.

After losing to Tahoma’s Mike Johnson 4-1 in last year’s Class 4A 160-pound state final match at the Matman Classic in Tacoma, Chriswell has longed for a rematch.

He got it on Saturday at the Central Kitsap Invitational but while the weight class had changed, the result did not.

Johnson got to Chriswell’s tiring legs with just 10 seconds left in the match to beat his foe 4-2 in the finals of the 171-pound division, handing Chriswell his first loss of the season and third in a row to Johnson.

“I’m not worried about losing, all I want is state,” Chriswell said. “I wanted to win, don’t get me wrong, that was definitely on my priority list. But I’m not mad because I know I can get him at state.”

It was at the CK Invite last year that Johnson and Chriswell first hooked up with Johnson taking a 9-4 win. Then at the state tournament, Johnson won 4-1 and had Chriswell steaming after the match. Since then, the SK junior has had nothing else on his mind.

But Johnson entered with a different attitude, one he takes into every match.

“I look at every opponent the same,” Johnson said. “I wrestle every opponent the same – I go out to win.”

Chriswell was definitely more aggressive this time out but still found himself having to fight off Johnson’s constant attacks at his legs. Johnson was successful a few times but didn’t get in on Chriswell until the very end of the match when he scored the deciding two points.

“Johnson did get in on his legs a couple of times but Brent did a nice job of fighting him off,” South co-coach Chad Nass said. “He wrestled a good match and he battled the whole time.”

Chriswell led early and was successful at keeping Johnson off his legs. But as the match wore on, Chriswell seemed to wear down.

“I knew that if I kept going hard and staying tough on him that eventually I’d get through,” Johnson said. “When someone goes after me, that’s when I wrestle my best.”

Johnson got to Chriswell with just 10 seconds left in the match and scored a two-point takedown to claim the title.

“The plan was to shoot,” Chriswell said. “But I didn’t shoot. I tried doing it but nothing was there. I did all right in my other matches, but he’s tough. I have to give that to him. I’ll just start training harder and get him at state.”

Even with all the hype leading into the match and with the result not going his way, Nass isn’t worried Chriswell will suffer any kind of mental letdown heading into the final month of the season.

“Not with Brent,” Nass said. “I think it will just make it burn that much more ’til the next time. He’s real mentally tough and very focused. We’ll figure out what he needs to do and what we need to work on and come up with a game-plan for next time.”

Next time is coming, both agreed on that.

“State finals,” Johnson said. “That will be another great match.”

That would happen Feb. 19 in the Tacoma Dome.

“I know what I have to do to beat him,” Chriswell said. “Now I just have to start doing it.”

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