TACOMA – His routine was not exactly the stuff of champions.
During what will probably go down as the final two matches of his wrestling career, Everett senior heavyweight Kenny Hudson spent the seconds before each overtime session down on all fours, begging for an inhaler. The 5-foot-8, 222-pounder looked like he might finish his career waving a white flag … not a state championship medal.
And yet Hudson dug down deep in both the semifinals and finals, winning a pair of overtime matches to take home a state title at Mat Classic XVIII. No matter what it looked like, Hudson was truly a champion. Elizabeth Armstrong / The Herald
Elizabeth Armstrong / The Herald
“I just try to be in better shape than the other guy because I’m usually smaller,” Hudson said after recording a takedown with 22 seconds left in overtime to beat Auburn senior Gaston Shelton in the championship match. “Most of the bigger guys aren’t in great shape, so I try to pride myself on having more gas in the tank at the end.”
The results were inarguable – Hudson also beat Curtis 275-pounder Kelani Terukina with an escape in double-overtime during a morning semifinal match – but the beefy sparkplug probably won’t be on any posters for cardiovascular activity.
Even though he admitted not to having been diagnosed with asthma, Hudson had to take an inhaler at the end of regulation of both his Saturday matches. He regained his breath and proved to have more stamina than his opponents – both of whom had at least six inches and 40 pounds on him.
“He digs down deep and overcomes adversity,” Everett coach Brien Elliott said after the championship match.
Led by Hudson, the Seagulls took seventh overall in the team standings – a finish that Elliott believes might have been the school’s best since the Otto Olson days of the mid-1990s.
But it wasn’t a perfect finish for Everett. Justin Boyce, a 215-pounder and defending state champion, struggled with a back injury that has plagued him most of the season and lost 6-5 to another returning state champ, Tahoma’s Kevin Kooyman, in the finals.
The only other Western Conference South Division wrestler to make it to the finals was Mariner senior Mohammad Mustafa. Like Boyce, Mustafa put in an impressive performance against a defending champion but came up short. Unbeaten Brent Chriswell of South Kitsap edged Mustafa 9-7 in the championship of the 189-pound weight class.
Hudson closed out the evening with a memorable win. The Everett senior fell behind 1-0 early in the second period but tied the score on an escape 36 seconds into the third. He appeared to take the lead late in regulation, but he was not credited with an apparent takedown because Shelton scurried out of bounds as he fell to the mat with 18 seconds left.
After a quick break to catch his breath, Hudson was the aggressor for most of overtime. Less than 30 seconds in, he made an identical shot on Shelton, grabbing his right ankle while trying to break him down. As Shelton fought for the edge of the mat, trying to get out of bounds again, Hudson successfully tripped him up and recorded the takedown with 22 seconds to go in overtime.
He celebrated with coaches and fellow EHS students before taking his place on the medal stand, where he finally stood eye-to-eye with some of his bigger opponents.
“I don’t care,” Hudson said of the obvious size differential. “I just feel like I’m on top of the world right now. I’m just relieved to have accomplished what I set out to do.”
Hudson’s teammate wasn’t so elated. After a difficult finals loss to Kooyman, Boyce collapsed to the mat in obvious pain. His back injury finally got the better of him after weeks of pain.
“I’m real proud of him,” Elliott said. “It was a pretty serious back injury, but we kept it hidden and downplayed it.”
Boyce (23-2) had a pretty easy time getting through the semifinal round. EHS teammate Parker Burns forfeited the match, ensuring that Boyce would not aggravate a lingering back injury heading into the finals.
“Parker’s just a heck of a teammate that puts the team ahead of himself,” Elliott said, adding that Burns has never beaten Boyce in about a dozen tournament meetings. “… We were hoping to get Burns on the other side of the bracket so he had a chance to get into the finals. But because of the way it fell, it didn’t work out that way. Next year, he’s a senior, so next year is his year. There’s nothing in his way.”
Boyce is also familiar with forfeiting, having stepped aside in the Region 1 championship match last weekend due to the back injury. He was scheduled to face Kooyman in that match, but the anticipated bout between returning state champions would have to wait a week.
Kooyman took a 5-0 lead through two periods before Boyce started inching his way into the match. Although he winced through the back pain at the start of the third period, he recorded an escape and subsequent takedown to get within 5-3. After letting Kooyman up to get a better opportunity at more points, Boyce got another takedown to pull within 6-5 with 18 seconds remaining. He almost turned Kooyman onto his back, but couldn’t complete the comeback.
“It was pretty painful through the whole match,” Boyce said of his back injury. “I just tried to get through it.”
Mustafa also battled to the end before succumbing to Chriswell (39-0). The Mariner senior kept the score tied 6-6 heading into the final period before losing 9-7.
“I feel good because I gave it all I got,” said Mustafa, who finished his year with a 35-3 record.
Mustafa was one of five place-winners from Mariner. Teammate and close friend Austin Kintner rebounded from Friday’s one-point quarterfinal loss to defending champion Lucas Chesher of Central Valley to win four matches Saturday and take third place in the 140-pound weight class. Karl Bush (sixth at 119), Zak Rydzak (seventh at 275) and Raymon Yee (eighth at 125) also placed for the Marauders.
Everett and Mariner combined to have eight of the 10 place-winners from the Western Conference’s South Division. The other two were Edmonds-Woodway 152-pounder Jeremy Pautler (sixth) and 160-pound Mountlake Terrace sophomore Casey Finnicum (seventh).
Finnicum had to battle back from a first-round loss, while Pautler lost both of his Saturday matches after advancing to the semifinals Friday.