Sweet redemption

It’s simply known has a go-behind.

It’s a move that Brent Chriswell has practiced a thousand times in his young wrestling career. And Saturday night, it was the move that earned him the title of state champion.

In the biggest match of his life, against the nemesis he had never beaten, on the biggest stage in the state, the South Kitsap junior pulled off a go-behind with just over a minute to go to beat Tahoma’s Michael Johnson 4-3 in the finals of the 171-pound weight class at Mat Classic XVII in the Tacoma Dome.

“He works on that all the time,” an ecstatic co-coach Chad Nass said. “It got him the W, it got him a state title.”

Chriswell’s win, combined with a pair of fourth-place finishes by teammates Brandon Kelly and Josiah Kipperberg, propelled the Wolves to a sixth-place team finish at the Mat Classic. South scored 55 points while University High of Spokane won the meet with 135 points.

But Chriswell’s win was the talk of the South camp.

“That’s better than winning (one yourself),” Nass, a former state champion at South, said. “That’s just cool. To go through what he’s been through the last two years battling that guy and to end it like this is just the pudding on the cake. Or the icing on the cake, or both.”

Johnson, who had never lost to Chriswell in three tries, including in the finals of the 160-pound division last year at the Mat Classic, lost for just the second time in his high-school career and was clearly upset. Chriswell on the other hand, showed little emotion after winning the title.

“It’s hard to explain, you know,” Chriswell said. “When you are a wrestler, it’s a feeling you know you love and it’s something that will be with you the rest of your life.”

Trailing 3-2 in the last period, Chriswell stayed aggressive and attacked, getting the go-behind points to take the lead and then held on for the win.

“He wrestled to win tonight and he did,” Nass said. “He wrestled to win and he did.”

Nass said he talked to Chriswell on Thursday about the game plan, which was to come out aggressive, something he hadn’t done in his first-three meetings with Johnson.

“I pulled him out of the room and He said ‘I’m going to go after him, it’s the one thing I have not done yet,’” Nass said. “And that’s what I wanted to hear him say, that he hadn’t gone after him. And he did tonight.”

Even though Chriswell trailed early, he fought back the entire match, keeping the pressure on Johnson, who in past matches would get a lead and then hook a leg and hang on until the end of the match. Johnson never got that chance Saturday.

“I felt that as the match wore on and it stayed close like that, it worked to our favor,” Nass said. “When I looked at the two of them in the third round, it looked like to me that Brent was not nearly fatigued as Michael. I felt the longer the match wore on and we stayed close, the better position we’d be in.”

Chriswell said a change in attitude helped.

“I’m not trying to be down on the Johnson’s but everyone is afraid of them,” Chriswell said. “Everyone is like ‘oh no, it’s the Johnsons.’ But every wrestler can be beaten – I can be beaten – everyone can be beaten. And you have to think that way.

“I’m there, he’s there and he’s just as worried about me,” Chriswell said. “If your not worried about the guy you are wrestling, then you shouldn’t be out on the mat.”

Chriswell’s title was the first for South since Derek Kipperberg won back in 2002. It also gave Chriswell a 36-1 record for the year.

“There’s a lot of pressure being a returning state champion, a lot of pressure,” Nass said. “Those are two of the best kids I’ve been around, so it’s tough.

“With Michael, Brent had to go after him – he had to be aggressive,” Nass said. “And he did.”

Kelly and Kipperberg, who both reached the semifinals on Friday’s first day, had to overcome losses in their first matches on Saturday and work their way through the consolation bracket to finish fourth. Both wrestlers lost their final matches of the day but still seemed satisfied with their placings.

“I’m excited and I thank God for what I got done,” Kipperberg said. “I’ll be here next year, hopefully.”

Kipperberg lost to Matt Sencenbaugh of Auburn is the 103-pound semis 9-4 and finished the day with a 5-2 loss to Chase Smith of Enumclaw

“I learned a lot,” Kipperberg said. “I learned that you can’t get down when you lose, you have to keep coming back.

“I personally think I should have been in the finals,” Kipperberg said. “I wrestled a terrible match, I already beat that guy before. So it was discouraging. I might have overlooked him, I was thinking finals, finals, finals.”

Still placing as a junior adds his name to the Wolves state placers wall along with his brothers Derek and Micah.

“It does feel kind of good,” Kipperberg said. “On that wall in our mat room, I’ll be underneath my brother’s names, so that will be kind of cool. Hopefully I’ll get up there and get a place on the wall next year. Hopefully, it will be after the finals.”

Kelly, going at 135 pounds dropped a pair of close matches to end up fourth as well.

“I thought I wrestled better (Friday),” Kelly said. “Things didn’t turn out the way I want. I wanted to win my last match. But that’s just the way it goes.”

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