SAMMAMISH – For Eli Clure, as the losses in his Mount Si High School wrestling career continued to grow, so did a mountain of motivation.
After earning status as a state alternate two seasons in a row, Clure delivered his first automatic state berth as a senior.
Clure shrugged off two seasons of close calls getting to state and scored a regional title at 120 pounds with a pin in 5 minutes, 1 second over Darion Green of Hudson’s Bay in the Class 3A Region 3 tournament at Skyline High School on Saturday.
Clure (29-5) was leading 15-10 before sticking Green with just under a minute left in his regional final, erasing thoughts and a trend of tough losses in his 87-27 career. Losing fueled the fire for the Wildcat senior.
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“I went into the match thinking, ‘I’m not going to lose this,’ ” said Clure, the Wildcats’ first regional titlist since Josh Mitchell earned one in 2012. “This is my last year and it meant a lot. Getting a lower seed into state wouldn’t help me a lot.
“Each loss definitely had its place. This year when I lost I was angry. Most people I’d been losing to are top-five or top-six at state.”
Clure was a state alternate as a sophomore, but he got in and went 1-2 at state. He was one point short of qualifying for a state berth at 120 as a junior.
“I still felt the pressure of wanting to win as I was the only person in the finals at regionals,” he said. “That loss that kept me going to state last year was a regret. It made me realize I could wrestle harder.”
Mount Si coach Tony Schlotfeldt schedules tough and he knew those tests would eventually pay off for Clure.
“When we put our nonleague schedule together, our goal is to get good competition,” Schlotfeldt said. “So, with that, you’re going to get those losses. It helps prepare you for these kinds of situations, where things can go either way.
“It builds mental toughness. He’s a tough competitor. He just continued to work hard. We’re proud of him for keeping going, and toughing it out.”
Mountain View of Vancouver, which advanced a tourney-best six wrestlers into the finals, piled up four individual regional crowns and easily won the team race with 204.5 points. The Thunder, which had the regional crown wrapped up before the finals, entered Saturday’s competition ranked as the No. 5 team in the state in Class 3A, according to www.washingtonwrestlingreport.net.
The Thunder collected its second regional crown in a row after never winning one in 32 previous years. Mountain View coach Travis Chipman was named Region Coach of the Year.
“I think for me the leadership in our program has really helped,” said Chipman, who has four seniors in his lineup. “We’ll have almost everyone returning next season.”
Kelso took second in the team race with 151.5 points. Prairie was third at 131, Mercer Island fourth at 124 and Mount Si fifth at 83.
Winning individual titles for the Thunder were junior Branden Huft (106) and seniors Benjamin Dixon (113), Kenji Yamashita (138) and Nathan Spires (145). Huft scored a pin in 1:42 and Yamashita registered a pin in 1:17 in their respective finals.
Dixon edged Highline junior Zach Edson 10-9 in the 113 final.
Bellevue junior Christian Villani, the school’s first state champion in 36 years when he won 132 in 3A last season, forfeited the 145-pound final to Mountain View’s Spires. Villani, who missed the early part of this season with an ailing back, was 24-0 this season before forfeiting Saturday’s championship bout.
“I’ll be there,” Villani said when asked about next week’s Mat Classic XXVI on Friday and Saturday in the Tacoma Dome. “I’ll be ready to go. I just need to rest for a few days.”
Villani wouldn’t disclose this week’s injury, although he appeared to favoring his left leg, foot or knee when exiting the floor from his 7-3 semifinal win over Columbia River’s Larry Andersen.
The top four individual finishers from each weight class advance to next weekend’s Mat Classic XXVI.
In the past, this regional tournament has been at Liberty of Issaquah, but the school is in the midst of a renovation project.
Mercer Island got a pair of regional titles from Luke Wilson (126) and Evan Condon (195). Wilson is 31-5 this season and Condon improved to 27-2.