Nate Bengen isn’t one to let the grass grow under his feet.
The Chiawana senior is up and has his car warming up at 4:30 a.m. during wrestling season. On the way to school, he stops and picks up freshman Riley Cissne. They are the first two at practice in the morning and some of the last to leave as the sun sets.
“It’s cool,” Bengen said of being a mentor to his younger teammate. “When I was a freshman, I had seniors to look up to. I like being that for someone else, too. Our freshmen have been wrestling their whole lives, and they are great to drill with. They are like little ducklings, but little ducklings who are beating some of the top-ranked guys in the state.”
Bengen, along with fellow senior Clayton Silvers, won district and regional titles this season for the Riverhawks, and the duo have their sights set on winning the first state title in school history at Mat Classic XXIX in Tacoma on Friday and Saturday. They also want to make sure they leave their mark on the program in a positive way.
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“Me and Benge had to step up our game,” Silvers said. “We had to show them how hard you have to work. I feel like I need to set the pace, give them a picture of what it takes. Some of them don’t understand. They have the skills, but you have to have heart — they need to see that.”
Chiawana coach Jack Anderson said he couldn’t have asked for two better leaders than Bengen and Silvers.
“Nate is a phenomenal leader,” Anderson said. “He has spent the last three years working his tail off to be successful. He is showing the younger kids the ropes. His work ethic is hard to match. Clayton is one of our bigger guys and he has to wrestle some of the coaches most of the time. I brought some guys in this year to work with him, and that has helped take him to another level.
“I have had all the Silvers kids (brothers Austen and Kameron came through before Clayton). They are great kids. It’s been a pleasure to see them grow, and it’s sad to see them go.”
Bengen (44-3) will open Mat Classic against Ian Tsang of Woodinville at 126 pounds. Silvers (47-2) will meet up with Cameron Cruz of Decatur in the first round at 195.
Not to put any additional pressure on Silvers, but placing at state is a family affair.
His dad, Kelly, was a two-time placer for Pasco High who finished fourth at 178 in 1986. Oldest brother Austen, also a two-time placer, was third in 2013 at 182, and Kameron finished sixth at 195 last season.
“There is a lot of family tradition there to win a state medal,” said Clayton, whose two losses are to Oregon and Idaho wrestlers. “They are all pushing me to do my best. I get a lot of support from my family and friends.”
Bengen has put the work in to earn a trip to state.
Two summers ago, he attended a 28-day intensive wrestling camp in Minnesota. He practices twice a day and puts his heart and soul on the mat every match.
“My family pushes me to be the best I can be,” Bengen said. “If I am going to spend the time and money on something, I’m going to strive to be the best I can.”
And the work doesn’t stop when the matches are over.
“I was up and working the morning after regionals,” Bengen said. “That’s life on a dairy farm.”