The defending Class 2A state champ at 182 pounds is legendary for the amount of work he puts into his craft.
For an encore, Diego Gallegos knows he’s going to need the performance of a lifetime every time he steps on the wrestling mat this winter.
After winning a state title, he’s fully aware the target his intense preparation and reputation have created.
As a junior, Gallegos outlasted Centralia senior Joe Finch 3-1 to capture the 182-pound state title in Class 2A. No doubt Gallegos put in the extra work in the offseason to make sure he’d be strong in his bid to become Lindbergh High School’s first two-time state champion.
5 teams to watch
Tahoma: The Bears, who took third at Class 4A state last season and are the preseason No. 1 in Class 4A, feature a lineup with seven wrestlers ranked in the state top 10 of their weight classes and all are returning state placers.
Arlington: The defending Class 3A state champions return four state placers, all of whom are ranked No. 4 or higher in their respective weights.The Eagles have the top-end talent, but maybe not the depth to contend for the team title again.
O’Dea: With eight wrestlers ranked in the top 10 in their classes, the Irish appear to have the depth to make an impact on the Class 3A standings at Mat Classic. The defending Metro League tournament champions were 34th as a team last season.
Lake Stevens: The Vikings retain the services of five wrestlers who enter 2016-17 ranked in the top 10 of their weight classes. Lake Stevens captured the school’s 11th state title last season but will have its work cut out to get back to the top this season.
Sultan: With seven wrestlers recognized in the top 10 of their respective weight classes,the Turks begin the season rated No. 4 in the Class 1A team rankings after taking eighth at state last season.
Gallegos will draw on the vision he sees in his mind to motivate him. Recapturing that special moment will require added dedication, and he knows it.
“I can remember that day,” he said. “I remember (Lindbergh) coach (Mike) Pine told me the second after my match to look out into the stands and remember this, because ‘you’re going to remember this the rest of your life.’
“I starting (crying) and ran up (in the stands) to my Dad and hugged everybody.”
His title triumph last season at Mat Classic XVIII gave him the distinction of becoming the school’s second state-champion wrestler and first since Dave Dalan took the 275-pound crown in 1992.
Pine knows he’ll get more than the required work from his star wrestler. It’s like he expects Gallegos to do extra credit without asking.
“He’s coachable,” said Pine, the Eagles’ fourth-year coach. “He’s driven. I think everybody respects him. If your aspiration is to be a state champ and you want to know how one trains, all you have to do is watch him.
“Everything he does is extra. If I said run one mile and get back in (the gym), he’d run two miles and get back in here. And hopefully he’d have a few followers.”
Sophomore A.J. Sellem, the Eagles’ 285-pounder, works out at practice with Gallegos and has benefited from those battles. Freshman 220-pounder Mathew Haines sees the standard. Pine hopes both can follow that example of excellence.
Last season, Gallegos came into the high-school season with a renewed commitment after J Robinson Intensive Camp, a 28-day summer experience, at Southern Oregon University.
5 wrestlers to watch
Jake Treece, Enumclaw (138, Sr.)
The Hornets’ state champion at 132 pounds in Class 3A finds himself ranked No. 3 at 138 in 4A this season. Finished 41-4 last season and didn’t give up a point in four state matches.
Bowen McConville, Kennedy Catholic (195, Jr.)
The Lancers’ top wrestler moves up to Class 4A and stays at 195 pounds after making a surprising run to second place in 3A. He begins the season ranked No. 3 behind a pair of state runners-up. He owns a 49-13 career record with 44 pins.
Nick Whitehead, Tahoma (126, Sr.)
After going 40-6 last season and finishing second at 126, the path should be paved for him to nab a state title in CLass 4A. A three-time state placer, he brings a career record of 105-18 with 81 pins into his final season.
Cole Washburn, Auburn (182, Jr.)
After settling for third place at 170 pounds in Class 3A last season, the Trojans and Washburn move up to 4A and with a little luck he could land a state title.
Gavin Rork, Arlington (145, Jr.)
Rork is one of four returning state placers for the Eagles, and he’s hoping to eclipse his second-place state finish at 132 in Class 3A. He is one of the main reasons Arlington checks in at No. 4 in the preseason rankings and he is rated No. 1 at 132.
“I think that was the thing that changed my wrestling career,” Gallegos said of the intense camp. “They really trained me and exposed me to what college wrestling is like. I really found that I wanted to wrestle in college. That’s where my passion would be.”
Said Pine: “He went to that camp, and when he came back, I saw a difference in his personality and there was more focus and determination.”
Gallegos, who started wrestling at age 6 as his secondary sport to football, was relied on heavily as an undersized two-way lineman in football in the fall for Lindbergh and competed in track and field last spring. He has a verbal commitment to wrestle for NCAA Division II Northern State University in Aberdeen, S.D.
He never rests.
Gallegos worked this offseason with the Bear Claw Wrestling Club, directed by Tahoma coaches Chris Feist, Boomer Burnham and Tim Kitchen. He’s confident it was the right move.
“Our club team has some of the top upper-weight wrestlers in the area training out of the Bear Claw Wrestling Club, so I knew he would have good partners to push him,” Feist said. “Even though he did not have a strong background in Freestyle and Greco-Roman, Diego has a growth mindset and challenged himself by training at a high level in a different style of wrestling than he was used to.
“He grew tremendously over the offseason, and I am looking forward to cheering him on as he chases down the state title for Lindbergh this season.”
It will be hard to top last season’s 49-4 record that featured 24 pins, but Gallegos is determined not to let things slip. He is off a 3-1 start.