By Josh Bronson
Pilot staff writer
Qualifying for the OSAA Wrestling State Championships four years in a row is an impressive feat in itself.
But try doing it in just your first four years of wrestling.
Not for Willie Bennett.
The Brookings-Harbor High School senior grappler placed seventh at this year's state wrestling tournament in his last hoorah as a high school wrestler.
And Bennett had a chance to place as high as third in the tournament.
andquot;Overall, it was good to place at state in my senior year,andquot; Bennett said. andquot;But what was disappointing was knowing that I could have easily placed higher.andquot;
In his consolation quarterfinal bout, Bennett dominated Levi Weikel of Sweet Home in the first period.
After taking a 6-1 lead in the first period, Bennett started the second on bottom and quickly reversed Weikel for an 8-1 advantage.
But as soon as Bennett was on top, Weikel rolled him over and pinned him at the 1:17 mark of the second period.
andquot;He was good at being on his back,andquot; Bennett said. andquot;He knew how to roll and he knew when to do it.andquot;
Consequently, Weikel did the same thing to his next two opponents and ended up taking third place.
In the seventh place match, Bennett wasn't going to let fate repeat itself as he planned to keep this match on his feet.
Bennett used his superior takedown technique to defeat Josh Warner of Phoenix in an 8-6 decision.
Three takedowns - two of which came in the final period - helped Bennett control the pace of the match and hold on for the win.
andquot;I'm really happy for Willie,andquot; Coach Dave Freeman said at the tournament Saturday. andquot;He's just worked so hard for it.andquot;
Until his freshman year at BHHS, Bennett had never set foot on the mat.
But according to Bennett, Freeman approached him that year and asked him to wrestle for the team.
andquot;Freeman asked me to come out and told me he wouldn't hold me to it if I didn't like it,andquot; Bennett said. andquot;But I'm one of those guys that, when I start something, I won't quit.andquot;
And he never did.
In fact, Bennett just kept getting better and better each year.
After placing third in the Far West League his freshman and sophomore years, Bennett took second his junior year and then took home the 140-pound championship title this year while being named the Outstanding Lightweight Wrestler of the tournament.
Bennett also emerged as one of the team leaders this season.
andquot;Willie's work ethic pretty much drove the team,andquot; teammate Ray Mazyck said. andquot;He was that senior leader for us this year.andquot;
And although Bennett has only wrestled for four short years, he has taken many life lessons from the sport he grew to love.
andquot;I learned to always give it my best and never give up,andquot; Bennett said. andquot;When you're down and out, you can either give up or you can get back up and keep going.andquot;
That never-say-die attitude helped Bennett place at this year's state tournament and it will continue to aid him as he continues life off the mat.