Tuesday, May 21, 2013
Covering Dallas, Monmouth, Independence, Falls City and surrounding areas since 1868
Dallas senior Wyatt Passantino, shown here roaming the halls prior to his title match at last year’s Class 5A state wrestling championships, has been to the finals twice and lost. He hopes to change that this season.
February 13, 2013
DALLAS -- The next time you see Wyatt Passantino win a match, watch what happens afterward.
What you won't see is a show, or much of a smile, or a shout.
The Dallas senior has done this many, many times before.
"You watch him get his hand raised on the mat and it never stays up in the air for more than a second," said Steve Passantino, Wyatt's father and wrestling coach for most of his 17 years.
"I've never sensed a lot of ego -- he's pretty humble about those things."
Wrestling every winter since the age of 5, qualifying for national tournaments at age 12, reaching the Class 5A state finals at his weight twice -- and losing -- might help a person learn how to be humble.
Passantino doesn't look at it all like that, though.
As he and the rest of the defending 5A state champion Dallas wrestling squad prepare for this weekend's Mid-Willamette Conference district meet in Corvallis, followed by the Class 5A state championships in Portland, Passantino just wants to do his job.
And it doesn't mean winning, necessarily.
"It's not my goal to win state," he said in all seriousness. "I just want to. It's not going to crush me if I lose."
`The one thing I've been good at'
Passantino was 4 years old the first time he ever touched a wrestling mat.
His father, Steve, took him to a six-week program and the younger Passantino took to the sport readily.
"He was very successful at it and had a desire for it," said the elder Passantino, a former DHS wrestler himself. "He liked the challenge of wrestling tougher opponents. As he got older, we started taking him to more advanced tournaments."
It only took a year before Wyatt was a full-blown competitor in the USA Wrestling program, participating in meets from November through April. When he was 12, he qualified for the USA Wrestling Kids National Tournament, held in Green Bay, Wis. He took seventh in the Greco-Roman portion.
Wyatt Passantino is pictured here at age 12 after his trip to USA Wrestling nationals.
"That was a long time ago," Wyatt recalled. "There's a lot of years there. There wasn't that pressure, I was doing good -- you could do good, you could do bad -- it didn't matter."
Steve coached Wyatt through elementary school, as he served as a coach for the Dallas Mat Club with Rob Andersen -- fellow Dallas High senior Brady Andersen's dad -- for six years, followed by a stint as LaCreole Middle School's wrestling coach. He even served as a Dallas High assistant for Wyatt's first three seasons before taking a break this year -- only because Wyatt asked him to.
"This year, I've backed off of everything," Steve said. "We tape his matches and I leave the camera on the counter. If he wants to watch them, he watches them."
Man on a mission
During Dallas' magical state tournament title run last season, Passantino was defeated in his 145-pound championship match by Churchill's Joe Potts by a 9-5 decision. Two years ago, he ran into Hermiston's eventual four-time state champion, Joey Delgado, in their 135-pound title match. Delgado, now a freshman for the Oregon State wrestling team, pinned him at the 4-minute and 35-second mark.
Two straight years of coming oh-so-close certainly has its motivating powers, though Passantino said it doesn't bother him -- too much.
Any frustration over those losses he's taken out on opponents this season. And that fire to wrestle tougher opponents when he was young? It still burns.
Passantino's only losses have come to very talented wrestlers in other divisions -- Roseburg's Reed Van Anrooy, perhaps the best wrestler in the state, let alone Class 6A, or McNary's Devon Reynolds, who holds the title as the lone wrestler to defeat Van Anrooy this season.
Wyatt Passantino reflects in the hallway of Veterans Memorial Coliseum after he lost his 145-pound state title match last season.
"He's taken on all the best -- those are the best," Dallas coach Tony Olliff said. "He went up a weight class in some cases to do it and those are his only losses and they would be anybody else's losses, too."
He'll most likely see Lebanon's Tamen Privratsky in Saturday's MWC 145-pound final, an opponent he's faced in the district final the past two seasons. He beat him as a sophomore, but lost the district championship to Privratsky in 2012.
Passantino set the tone for the matchup Thursday, putting Privratsky on his back at the 5:42 mark in Dallas' dual victory.
"It was a big punctuation at the end of what was a pretty emotional dual," Olliff said. "It was kind of fun, kind of a knockout punch."
One last try
Don't get him wrong.
Passantino -- who has no plans to wrestle after high school -- wants to win and his focus, as strong as it has been this season, will only get more dialed in as the state tournament nears.
If anything, he wants that coveted state title not for himself, but for his family.
"It would mean a lot and it would mean a lot to my whole entire family, too," Passantino said.
He has already been accepted into Oregon State University with plans to major in its construction management engineering (C.E.M.) program.
"They've seen me at the state championships get second. (A state championship) would be really cool, he said."
The vastness of Veterans Memorial Coliseum and the brightness of the big stage no longer an issue, Steve Passantino said he's already plenty proud of what his son has been able to accomplish.
He also knows what type of effort his son will produce.
"He's going to go out there and there's little doubt in my mind that he's going to give 110 percent," he said. "He's been in these big venues a bunch of times so the big venue is no longer intimidating."
But win or lose, Wyatt said all the years of wrestling he's put in have been worth it. Winning would just be icing on a cake that's about to finally be finished.
"I just want to put as much into it as I can," Passantino said. "I want to go into that last match and know that I didn't have anything left -- I just want to get off that mat and be dead (tired).
"If it means winning, it means I won."
With Thursday's 47-19 win over Lebanon, Dallas clinched its third-straight Mid-Willamette Conference dual meet title with a perfect 7-0 record. If the Dragons can win the team title at this weekend's Mid-Willamette Conference Championships, Dallas will win its fourth-straight overall league title. "Since I've been a freshman and came into high school, we've just had phenomenal success," Dallas senior Garrett Lawrence said. "The trophy case, when I walk by it, it's exciting because that's part of our dynasty that we started as freshmen."
MID-WILLAMETTE CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIPS
When: Friday, noon. Saturday, 11 a.m. Finals will start at 6:40 p.m.
Where: Corvallis High School.
Teams and dual meet records: Dallas (7-0), Lebanon (6-1), West Albany (5-2), Silverton (3-4), Crescent Valley (3-4), South Albany (2-5), Corvallis (2-5) and Woodburn (0-7).
What's at stake: The top four placers in each weight class qualify for the Class 5A state championship tournament, Feb. 22-23 at Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Portland.