Zayid Al-Ghani said there is no way he should have lost four matches this season.
But the Southridge High School senior is putting the past behind him as he goes after the Class 3A 170-pound title this weekend at Mat Classic in Tacoma.
“I’m definitely going for it,” Al-Ghani said. “This year, I’m used to the environment. I just need to go there, wrestle hard and win.”
Al-Ghani is bucking to be just the second state wrestling champion in school history. Eric Schwartz won gold at 101 pounds as a freshman in 1997. It was the first year Southridge was open, and the Suns competed at the 1A level.
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Much has changed in 20 years, but not the quality of athlete on the mat.
Al-Ghani was a unanimous choice by the Mid-Columbia Conference coaches as the upper weight wrestler of the year.
“He is the best kid at his weight,” Southridge coach Steve Isley said of Al-Ghani’s competition at state. “If he wrestles the way he can, he is four or five points better than all of them. These last couple of weeks, he’s the best he’s looked all season. When it comes time to compete, there is no one like him.”
Al-Ghani is 33-4 this season. One of his losses is to defending Oregon state champion Valen Wyse of Hermiston at the Best of the West tournament in December.
“He is the best kid I have wrestled all year,” Al-Ghani said.
He also has a loss to Kamiakin’s Jacob Olson — though he’s beaten him twice since — Selah’s Aaron Pimentel and Alex Stuart of Camas, the No. 1-ranked 170-pounder at the 4A level.
Al-Ghani, ranked No. 1 at the 3A level, will open Friday against O’Dea sophomore Vlad Buchheit.
“I’ve never wrestled him,” Al-Ghani said. “Sometimes it’s good to know what they do so you can work on moves and set up your offense. Then again, some guys psych themselves out before a match. These are my last high school matches. One loss takes you out of first, and that can be stressful. If I go all out, I have nothing to lose.”
Helping Al-Ghani prepare for what lies ahead are teammates Mark Meier (160), Derrick Gillespie (145) and Taylor Ambrose (220), who also are headed to state.
“They all have different styles, which helps me with different moves,” Al-Ghani said.
Isley said the wrestlers have helped each other improve.
“The thing about Zayid, is he’s the measuring stick,” Isley said. “Mark Meier won 14 matches last year. This year he’s won 35. All of these guys are around Zayid’s weight and all them measure themselves against him. Every time he competes, it’s at 100 percent, even in practice. If you score on him in practice, it’s legit.”