Gardner determined to win wrestling title

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDDecember 3, 2013 

Nooksack Valley's Chloe Gardner is held by Todd Beamer's Vanessa Dixon in the Washington State MAT CLASSIC XXIV Championships at the Tacoma Dome on Saturday Feb. 18, 2012 in Tacoma. Gardner lost and finished in fourth place.

ANDY BRONSON — THE BELLINGHAM HERALD

Chloe Gardner ended her junior wrestling season with a smash, literally.

She proceeded to throw down Lakes High School's Juliana Trujillo and record a 33-second pin in the third-, fourth-place match in the 137-pound weight class at the 2013 Mat Classic, capping her second consecutive top-four finish for the Nooksack Valley Pioneers.

Trujillo, unfortunately, got the brunt of Gardner's pent-up rage after not reaching the championship match for a second consecutive year.

"I went out a little POed," Gardner said in a phone interview. "I was intense ... annoyed and a little frustrated, and I really wished I could have gotten to the championship match, but now I am working on that this season."

The Lakes product wasn't the only wrestler to meet such a short fate against Gardner. All four of her wins at the state championships last year were pins she recorded less than three minutes in to the respective bouts.

She isn't one to make people wait, and that mentality is largely what makes her one of the early-season favorites to contend for a state title in the 137-pound weight class.

Gardner and the rest of the Nooksack Valley girls' wrestling team are set to kick off their season on Thursday, Dec. 5, against Sedro-Woolley at home. The Pioneers as a team placed 19th at state last year, and both Gardner and coach Chad Parson believe this year has the potential to yield a much higher outcome.

Much of that is because of the lofty expectations Gardner has placed on herself, with winning a state championship being her only focus.

"She's a warrior," Parson said in a phone interview. "She is one of those athletes that comes along every once in a while. She is able to focus so well, and she is able to take a task in front of her and just go for it."

Gardner's goals and Parson's hopes ran along the same path: Win every tournament leading up to the state championship. The senior even made a list of things she wanted to accomplish during her senior year, and among them was surpass her previous finishes and hoist the state trophy.

"This is my last shot," she said.

The three-sport athlete, who runs cross country in the fall and plays fast pitch in the spring, is still relatively new to the sport of wrestling. Nothing about the sport really caught her initially, and mainly she didn't want to "be wrestling in a hot room with a whole bunch of sweaty girls," she said.

Parson convinced her to give the sport a try her sophomore year, and to nobody's surprise, she took to it quickly.

One particular reason for that, Parson added, is her strength. The same strength she put on display last year while recording 30 pins and a 35-4 overall record.

"She does stand out when she gets a girl in a cradle," Parson said. "They are pretty much done - they can't get out of them."

Gardner added: "I'm built really muscularly."

There is never a moment during practices that Gardner isn't looking to improve. It's an intensity thing, Parson said, who employs the mentality that he wants his girls training every moment in practice like they are wrestling for the state championship in their respective weight classes.

Gardner has the added benefit of getting to spar against fellow senior Kylee Dekoekkoek. Dekoekkoek, who wrestled at 145 pounds last year, recorded an eighth-place finish at the state championships after posting a 32-9 record last season.

The two share a similar mentality: win.

"We are extremely similar in both aggressiveness and (we) work so hard every day," said Gardner, citing the advantage it is for her to get to wrestle daily against one of the better competitors in the state.

Parson, too, has looked to both his seniors less for leadership and more for setting a tempo.

"It just naturally has happened where the other girls look up to those two, who just destroy people every time we are in that practice room," he said.

Their Nooksack Valley teammates will get a front-row seat to watch both Gardner and Dekoekkoek dish out that same punishment, only it will be against other opponents for a change.

Reach Alex Bigelow at alex.bigelow@bellinghamherald.com or call 360-715-2238. Follow @bhamsports on Twitter for other Whatcom County sports updates.

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