PORT ORCHARD — Mason Eaglin’s junior year came to a surprise end in 2017.
He reached the state championship bout in the 138-pound weight class and was cruising to a sure victory against Josh Franich of Puyallup, a wrestler he had easily beaten twice before. But in the blink of an eye, he got caught and pinned with a little more than a minute to go in the final period. His title hopes, at least for that year, had vanished.
Head coach Chad Nass remembers the conversation he had with his wrestler following the match, which he said summed up Eaglin’s character.
“He was obviously upset,” Nass said. “But he said to me, ‘You know, don’t feel bad for me. I got beat. Plain and simple. Nothing is fair in this sport. You have to go out there and earn it, and I didn’t earn it.’ “
In 2018, there were no mistakes, no upsets, and no backing down. Eaglin rebounded to go 48-1 and win a state championship at 170 pounds, defeating Auburn’s Cole Washburn, 6-5, at the 30th Mat Classic. Eaglin was also an integral part of South Kitsap’s first-ever overall team state title. For his accomplishments, he is the Port Orchard Independent’s 2018 Male Athlete of the Year.
Before the season, it was clear this group of wrestlers at South Kitsap was special. The team had a large group of seniors with the ability to place high at state and possibly bring home a couple of championships. The only problem was that there were a number of wrestlers who were all close to one another in size.
Eaglin had grown between his junior and seniors years, so he knew he would move up from 138. He was certified to wrestle at 160, but with two talented seniors in Davonn Keyes and Nathan Marin able to wrestle at that weight, Eaglin took on the challenge of moving up to 170.
“I knew wherever I went I was going to win,” Eaglin said. “So I asked Coach, ‘Where do you think I should go?’ We had a bunch of kids stacked up all around the same weight.”
The gambit paid off handsomely. Not only did Eaglin win a title, but Marin and Keyes finished second and third, respectively, at 160. Eight wrestlers in all finished in the top four, vaulting South Kitsap to the top of the 4A leaderboard with 160 points, 53.5 ahead of Mead.
“This is what separates him — unselfishness,” Nass said. “He knew for us to win a state team title, the best place for him was at 170. He was willing to possibly sacrifice an individual title to do what was best for the team.”
Indeed, Eaglin himself said the most memorable moment for him at the Mat Classic was watching his younger brother Xavier, a freshman, win his first state championship earlier in the day. Xavier beat Chase Randall of Mead, 9-8, in the 106 finals.
“That was much more emotional for me,” Eaglin said. “It was a really cool match and everyone thought he was going to lose, besides us. That was really emotional because I love the way he wrestles and the way he wins. I’m really proud of him.”
With his career at South Kitsap behind him, Eaglin is headed seemingly a world away to Durham, North Carolina, where he will attend Duke University.
“I’m excited for the challenge,” Eaglin said. “I’ve never been a college wrestler, obviously, and from what I’ve heard, it’s really tough.”
Past Independent Male Athlete of the Year Recipients
2017: Nolan Van Amen
2016: Albert MacArthur
2015: Marshaud Dewalt
2014: Logan Knowles
2013: Bryce Broome
2012: Eddie Meisner
2011: Conner Hartmann
2010: Gordy Anderson
2009: Leon La Deaux
2008: Matt Foxworthy
2007: Renard Williams
2006: Brent Chriswell & Josiah Kipperberg