TACOMA - Chloe Gardner three years ago hadn't stepped foot on a wrestling mat, but her innate wrestling qualities were enough to make coach Chad Parson salivate over her potential.
Parson always knew what Gardner could become.
And Gardner found out exactly what hard work and determination can breed at Mat Classic XXVI on Saturday, Feb. 22, at the Tacoma Dome, earning a 145-pound state championship with a third-period pin over Enumclaw's Danielle Cormier.
"It's amazing," said Gardner, working to fight back tears. "I've been working so hard for this and now it's happened. I can finally end my wrestling career on a fantastic note."
Gardner pinned her way to the finals. Her longest match lasted 1 minute, 51 seconds.
In the center of the Tacoma Dome floor in the girls' wrestling section, she proved to her rooting contingent she can win with endurance, too.
Gardner fell behind 5-0 early, but as the match wore down, so did Cormier. The Enumclaw grappler continued to give points to Gardner for stalling and illegal holds until the Pioneer senior went up 7-5.
Then Gardner went to work.
She scored a reversal with 50 seconds to go in the match, worked Cormier to her back and got a pin moments later.
Parson leaped into the air, and Gardner blew a kiss to the crowd after the referee raised her hand.
"She tied it up for me, which is amazing," said Gardner, who acknowledged Cormier was getting tired. "I didn't have to do any work. She did that for me, and I got a reversal and pinned her like I knew I had to do."
The win was extra gratifying for Gardner, who placed fourth in 2012 and third last year. She suffered a tough semifinal loss last season, but more than made up for it this time.
"She is my first state champion," Parson said. "This is my seventh year coaching, and there it is. She is such a great kid, great athlete and she's dedicated to her family. She's dedicated to her team and when someone with that character puts in the time and effort, this is the result, right here."
Reach Andrew Lang at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 360-756-2826. Follow @bhamsports on Twitter for Whatcom County sports updates.
Reach ANDREW LANG at email@example.com or call ext. 862.