Arlington heavyweight surprises at state

TACOMA — Going into his senior year, Tristan Emery had one more shot.

“It was my last chance to be something great,” Emery said.

Emery’s four-year wrestling career for Arlington H.S was mixed with bad luck. He was injured his freshman year, he didn’t make it past districts as a sophomore, and he broke his arm three weeks into his junior season.

Wrestling in the 285-pound weight class, he set a goal for himself to place this year, but his, coach Jonny Gilbertson, set the bar a bit higher.

“I told him he could win a state title. He thought I was crazy,” Gilbertson said.

Emery put in the extra work he knew he needed, taking advantage of Gilbertson’s emphasis on conditioning in practice.

Gilbertson, a first-year coach, caught his first glimpse of Emery’s ability at a wrestling clinic in northern Idaho.

“I saw his ability to keep his head positioning,” which is an important skill in the heavier weight classes, Gilbertson said. “And I told him ‘I’ve seen guys half as good as you win state titles.’”

To win the title, Gilbertson told Emery to “stick to the game plan and believe in yourself.”

Emery was successful in his regular season, eventually taking second place in the league, and then placing second in regionals to be seeded 8th in the 3A state tournament Feb. 17-18.

“Every time he won a big match, his confidence built,” Gilbertson said.

In round one, Emery won his first match 4-2 in overtime.

“I was a little nervous going into it,” Emery said. “Once I got past that first match, my confidence started going up.”

He battled his way to the semifinals, where he had to endure his most-harrowing match, defeating Juanita’s John Nascimento by pin in quadruple overtime.

After that he said to himself, “’I got a really good shot at it; let’s see how far I can go with it,’” Emery said.

Emery then met Oak Harbor’s Samuel Zook for the championship. He remembered the game plan — “Keeping good head position, and working in moves that I knew would work for me,” Emery said.

But Emery fell short and lost to Zook by pin at two minutes, 47 seconds, settling for second place.

Emery said he was disappointed, but despite the loss, was happy with his success at state.

“I surprised myself,” Emery said.

“Not many people at that place thought he was going to get there,” Gilbertson said. “It’s a huge testament to his hard work and himself.”