Peninsula High School wrestler Chance Stolz reached the Class 3A consolation semifinal round during the second day of the Mat Classic state championships last month, but things weren’t going well against Hanford’s Will Bishop.
Stolz trailed 13-2 in the 195-pound match, and Bishop was in complete control. But then he performed an illegal throw on Feb. 15 at the Tacoma Dome, and Stolz landed awkwardly on his neck.
When high school wrestlers throw their opponents, they have to allow their competitor to come down on either their knees or hands in order to give them a safe landing.
That didn’t happen, and Bishop was about to be disqualified.
Medical personnel examined Stolz, who had an opportunity to move on to wrestle for either third or fourth place at state if he accepted the referee’s decision.
What happened next shocked Bishop and his coach. Stolz approached the referee and told him to allow Bishop to win by injury default.
“The guy was beating me 13-2, so I was like, ‘He’s beating me. He deserves the match,’ ” Stolz said.
While the throw was illegal, Stolz said he didn’t think it was malicious. Those things happen in wrestling, he said.
Stolz, only a sophomore, knew Bishop was a senior, and this Mat Classic would be his last.
“It wasn’t like it was a super close match,” Stolz said. “It’s his senior year, his final go. I have two more years. It was kind of an in-the-moment decision, but it just felt like the right thing to do.”
Bishop wound up fourth after an 11-0 loss to Evan Condon of Mercer Island. Meanwhile, Stoltz came in sixth following a 2-1 loss to Aliyas Fletcher of Lincoln.
Peninsula head coach Mark Nickels said he was glad Stolz is getting recognition for just being a good person.
“I think it shows a lot of the integrity he has,” Nickels said. “I don’t think anybody wants to have a win that has an asterisk next to it. You know where that’s from. He could’ve stood higher on the podium, sure, but did he beat the kid? No.”
Stolz said his sense of sportsmanship came from his upbringing and coaching. The Peninsula wrestling team has a motto: Earn your spot.
“I think he has his heart in the right place,” Nickels said. “He has a good head on his shoulders. Nobody wants to walk away with a win that you didn’t earn. I respect that about him. He’s a hard worker, and he’ll earn it. It just wasn’t his time.”
Stolz said he likely would make the same choice if it happened again.
“I knew what I was doing,” he said. “It wasn’t really a tough decision, it’s just how I was raised.”
On high school wrestling’s biggest stage, the stakes are high. A win, if not deserved, would feel somehow tainted, he said.
“It was the right decision to be made,” Nickels said. “I think, given what’s at stake, the state tournament is the culmination of everything these kids are working for. You want the podium to be as true of a representation of the top kids in the state (as possible).”
At the end of the day, the Peninsula wrestlers just want to improve their sport, Nickels said.
“That’s one of the other messages we really want to instill in kids,” he said. “Do what you can to make the sport better. Things like that, with acknowledging the right athlete to move on — and acknowledging athletes who make good decisions like that — are good examples of the best that you can find in the sport.”
Sports reporter Jon Manley can be reached at 253-358-4151 or by email at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter, @gateway_jon.