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Sunday, February 18, 2001 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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High School Sports

Class 2A wrestling: Tonasket wrestler wins a state title for 4th time

Seattle Times staff reporter

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TACOMA - First came the compassion, then the celebration.

After Martin Mitchell of Tonasket High School won his 130-pound match in the Class 2A tournament last night to become only the second wrestler in Washington history to capture four state championships, Mitchell took a minute to console Grandview senior Antonio Avalos, the runner-up.

Mitchell wrapped his arms around Avalos, who is deaf, for several seconds. Then, after the referee raised his arm as champion, Mitchell raced to the middle of the Tacoma Dome floor and held up four fingers on each hand, sharing the moment with the crowd.

"During the match, he's my enemy," Mitchell said of Avalos, who took fifth at 130 last year. "After the match, we go back to being best friends, just like before the match."

Mitchell joined R.A. Long's Pat Connors as the state's only four-time champions. He finished his high-school career on a 65-match winning streak, which stretched back to a loss in the tough Tri-State tournament early last year.

But he rebounded from that setback to claim the 2A state title at 119 last year.

His first two seasons at Tonasket, he wrestled at the A/B level, winning at 101 in '98 and 115 in '99.

Mitchell's four-year record is 141-3, including a 37-0 mark this season. Connors, who captured crowns at 101 in 1991, 108 in '92, 115 in '93 and 129 in '94, is now as assistant coach at Kelso. He apparently was at the tournament last night to watch Mitchell, though Mitchell said he had yet to talk to Connors.

Still, Mitchell appreciated the gesture and said he planned to return the favor next year, when Lake Stevens' Burke Barnes is expected to go for a fourth title.

"The wrestling community is so supportive of each other," Mitchell said. "I plan on coming back next year to watch Burke win his fourth."

Mitchell pinned his way into this year's finals, but he had to go the distance against Avalos, who also gave him a tough match in the regional finals.

Dave Mitchell, Martin's dad and wrestling coach, beamed with pride after his son's final victory. .

"Martin is just a real pleasurable person," Dave Mitchell said. "That's what I'm most happy about. He's a darn good kid. ... It's been such a pleasure to be his dad and his coach."

Martin's younger brother Patrick, a sophomore, placed fourth at 145.

The champions

They didn't have an individual champion, but the Washougal Panthers recorded six top-four finishes to capture the Class 2A team title. Zillah won its third straight 1A/B team title as Ray Rodriguez, Armando Valadez and Kevin Robillard took individual title.

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