By Jeremy McDonald
SALEM, Ore.– There is nothing more thrilling than going the distance and winning a State Championship.
No, not just the distance, not overtime or double overtime, straight-up triple overtime and winning by a 3-2 decision over a guy you’ve battled three times before.
North Salem’s Antonio Garcia did just that in his fourth meeting with Lebanon’s Keith Brown. Garcia wasn’t going to have a repeat of the District Finals and dropping another one as the now-Viking Senior won his third match in four meetings with the stud Warriors athlete.
“It was amazing. I knew I didn’t wrestle my best at Districts, I knew I didn’t do what was expected of me, my ability level and I dropped the ball,” starts Garcia. “That feeling (of winning State) was the best feeling of my life knowing I worked three long years for that. The countless nights.
“The blood…drenched…my sweat, tears. Everything I put into the sport, it was the best feeling in the world to know that I got what I worked so hard for.”
In a league, the Mid-Willamette Conference, that saw eight State Winners and another seven finish State Runner-Up in the 14 weight divisions, Garcia knows he’s blessed to be one of the few to have pulled it off last season.
And with his Senior Season in it’s second day Tuesday evening in the old Olinger Building about a quarter-mile from where their old mat room use to be on the North Salem campus Garcia wants to repeat as State Champion.
Easier said than done obviously in the league the Vikings are in alone let lone across 5A, with guys like Brown looking for revenge against Garcia this season. For Garcia, it’s the same mindset he had all year and after the District Finals to make another deep run at it.
“I want to win, so I got to work for it. Everyone’s working for it, everyone wants to win. No one is ok winning one match or two,” starts Garcia. “At the end of the day, whether you love this sport or you hate the sport, you still want to be the best at the sport.”
Logan Basham, one of the two North Salem State Placers last season returning with his 106-pound Runner-Up run as a sophomore last season, just the confidence around him will help him carry the momentum from last season to this year.
“Just confidence that they think I can win it,” said Basham. “That, just there, makes me feel like I can win it. If I have other people there with me, then I feel like I’m unstoppable. I hope this year I can do a lot better and I actually put the work in and work even harder than I did last year.”
And though Garcia and Basham will be looked at as the ‘leaders’ of the team this year for last year’s success alongside 2019-graduate and three-time State Champion Ein Carlos, they have a strong cast around them. Vance Lund, Keith Barnett and an impressive girls team that has came out to start the season that the Vikings hope to build from.
“With me, Antonio, Keith and all the leaders, I think we’re going to do great this year,” starts Basham. “Our leadership I think is really good (with) how we get along we’re like brothers and we’re like sisters towards the girls. We just treat each other as family and I just think we’re going to do good this year with our leaders.”
Photos By Jeremy McDonald