As in most high-school state competitions, Oak Harbor’s trip to the Washington 3A wrestling championships included smiles and tears, but those grins were a little wider this time around.
The three greatest Wildcat accomplishments of the tournament where the individual efforts of seniors Joshua Crebbin and C.J. Shavers and the combined effort of the entire team which helped Oak Harbor place 10th in the team standings.
Crebbin came into the meet ranked seventh in the 160-pound division and Shavers ninth at 170. Both upset set higher-ranked wrestlers on the way to the podium as Crebbin finished second and Shavers fourth.
For Oak Harbor coach Mike Crebbin, Joshua’s father, watching his team succeed was rewarding, watching Joshua and Shavers surprise the field made it even more exciting, and then, of course, watching his son reach the finals was priceless.
Josh Crebbin won three straight matches, including upsetting the top- and third-ranked wrestlers, to reach the finals were he lost 4-2 to friend Morgan Smith of Meadowdale.
Mike Crebbin said, “Josh wrestled really well; he surprised me as a coach. You always have confidence in your kid, have hope for your kid and believe in your kid, but this was not expected.”
Josh Crebbin’s trip the finals was tough. First he nearly blew a 14-5 lead in the first match, escaping with a 16-13 win. That set up a battle with No. 1-ranked Cayle Williams of Bonney Lake.
Mike Crebbin said Williams had a reputation as a physical wrestler with a bit of a nasty streak. He said Josh “rose to the occasion and responded well” to Williams’ style by using “positive wrestling.”
He added that Josh didn’t get intimidated and broke Williams’ spirit for a 13-7 win.
In the semifinals, Crebbin met third-ranked Bryson Pierce of Spokane’s North Central.
After Pierce opened the match with a take down, Crebbin escaped and took down Pierce for a 3-2 lead. In the second period, Pierce gained a reversal and looked like he was about to turn Crebbin when the Oak Harbor senior suddenly regained control and pinned Pierce.
In the finals, Crebbin faced fourth-ranked Smith for the third time this season. Smith won 9-4 and 3-1 in the earlier matches. The two met at a wrestling camp and have developed deep respect of each other.
Smith scored a first-period take down and near fall to go up 4-0 before Crebbin escaped. Another Crebbin escape in the third period was the match’s only other point.
Josh Crebbin said he purposely didn’t look at the rankings heading into state and focused on one match at a time, as his coaches suggested. His success, he said, was “kind of a surprise.”
After beating Williams, his father told him Williams was ranked No. 1. “I was pretty excited about that,” Josh said.
Josh Crebbin said ever since he was a first-grader rolling around the mats at his dad’s practices he has dreamed about being a state champion.
Losing in the finals was disappointing, but if he had to lose, it was great Smith won, Josh said, because he knows how hard Smith has worked to get there.
Wrestling for his father had its rough patches, Josh Crebbin said, but as he matured he became better at separating his father’s two roles.
“I began to realize when he was yelling at me, he was trying to help me.”
After dropping the championship match, Josh Crebbin said, “My father said, ‘You made a believer out of me.’ That meant a lot to me.”
Shavers, Mike Crebbin said, wrestled “lights out” and that “no one saw that one coming.”
He added, “It was awesome, inspiring.”
Shavers nipped the eighth-ranked wrestler 9-8 in the opening round, then pinned fifth-ranked Luke Holsinger of Peninsula in the second round. Holsinger defeated Shavers a few weeks earlier, but Mike Crebbin said Shavers “had his way with the kid” this time.
After getting pinned by the second-ranked wrestler in the semifinals, Shavers won 12-11 over the seventh-ranked wrestler before losing to the top-ranked wrestler in the match for third and fourth.
Shavers’ surprising success, Mike Crebbin said, started after Shavers began reviewing tapes of past matches as coaches pointed out the good things Shavers accomplished. From there they emphasized minimizing mistakes and maximizing strengths.
Other coaches from Oak Harbor’s league, the Western Conference, complimented Shavers, Mike Crebbin said, on his improvement at state and started sharing scouting reports to help him defeat his upcoming opponents.
At the state meet, a large board displays the team scores. The board has room for only the top 10 schools, and it’s every team's goal to be recognized on that list. Mike Crebbin said it makes “you feel really good as a coach to see your team up there along with some really good programs. Now it is time to move up to the middle of the board, and then higher.”
When his son reached the finals, Crebbin said he was an excited parent, then quickly changed to coach-mode and realized it would be “a big boost in team points” in Oak Harbor’s quest to “get on the board.”
Josh Crebbin was proud of his team’s accomplishments as well. The Wildcats finished first in the Wesco North but behind Stanwood at district and regional. He said the team was happy to see its name up on the board with Stanwood no where in sight.