South Kitsap Male Athlete of the Year

It doesn’t really seem as though it’s been just four months since Brent Chriswell defeated his arch-nemesis and claimed a state title.

The time has passed so quickly that Chriswell, who beat Mike Johnson of Tahoma in the finals of the 171-pound weight class last February to claim the Class 4A state wrestling title, has hardly thought that much about it. But then he’s been busy grabbing a couple of national titles in his spare time.

And for those reasons, the junior has been chosen as the South Kitsap Male Athlete of the Year by the Port Orchard Independent.

Chriswell topped a list that included: Derrick Webb and Jamil Moore, who led the Wolves basketball team to undefeated regular season, a No. 1 state ranking and ultimately a sixth-place finish at the state tournament; running back Anthony Galloway, one of the few bright spots on the South football team this past year; Nick Boone, the goalie who took the SK boys’ soccer team back to the state tournament; and, distance runner Justin Schenck, who participated in both the state cross-country and track and field meets.

But it was Chriswell’s performance at both the Mat Classic and in the national tournaments in Chicago, where he won titles in both Greco-Roman and freestyle, and in Las Vegas, where he finished third in freestyle, that earned him top honors.

At the Mat Classic, Chriswell avenged his only loss of the year by beating Johnson in a closely contested match. Since then, there has been plenty for Chriswell to think about.

“I think about it a lot,” Chriswell said. “But I think a lot about next year. I’m more focused on next year.”

With name now up on the wall in the Wolves’ mat room, Chriswell has a constant reminder of his accomplishment this year.

“It’s a great feeling, I think about it when I see my name up on the wall,” Chriswell said. “I’ll put the DVD in and watch it sometimes and remember how good it felt to beat him.

“But I’m focusing more on school right now,” Chriswell said. “I’m not hurt, but injured a little bit. I’m not going to go to nationals (in Fargo, N.D.) but I’m still lifting weights and running on my own.”

The biggest accomplishment for Chriswell this past year may not be the state and national titles but the way he has grown since his sophomore year, when he was a shy but powerful prodigy.

“What’s amazing to me about Brent is the first time I saw him wrestle I really thought about how we’ve never had a kid at his age level that was as talented as he was,” South co-coach Chad Nass said. “I thought to myself that there was so much room for growth in him. And looking at him now as opposed to what he was the first couple of times I saw him wrestle, he’s had tremendous growth both physically and mentally.

“And I foresee him continuing to to grow and being more and more dominant,” Nass said. “His perspective on things is a lot different than with other kids.”

Nass cited the example of how Chriswell could have stayed at 160 pounds, the weight he wrestled at as a sophomore, this past year and cake-walked to a state title. Instead, he moved up in weight because Johnson, who had beaten him in the finals that year, moved up.

“He wants to be the best,” Nass said, “and that’s something that’s pretty neat about him.

“To be a state champion in your home state and then go out and win two national titles,” Nass said, “not a lot of people get the chance to say that.”

In fact, only three wrestlers at the national meet in Chicago won titles in two different styles.

“That’s pretty unique and not easy to do,” Nass said.

But Chriswell keeps it all on an even keel, not wanting to put one above the other.

“They’re about the same,” Chriswell said. “Of course, nationals are nationally and there’s something to that, but it depends at the time I look at it. At the time when I’m wrestling for state, that’s what’s most important to me. And the same for nationals. When I’m focused on that, it’s the most important thing.”

So as Chriswell prepares for his senior campaign, he and Nass know the pressure that awaits them.

“His technique has always been dominant, and it always will be,” Nass said. “But the mental aspect of him maturing, I think he realizes that if he keeps on getting bigger, he will have to keep increasing his strength so he can keep that edge that he has.

“He’s the top dog now and so every time he steps on the mat, everyone is going to be going after him,” Nass said. “They are going to be bringing their A game. But I think he looks forward to it. I don’t think he fears that at all. That’s kind of what he works for.”

That and the chance to get his name up on the wall for a second time.

“Yeah, that would be good,” Chriswell said. “It would be the first time (it’s ever happened at South).”

Don’t bet against him.

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