Klahowya's one-two wrestling punch

Klahowya Secondary School senior co-captains Joe Sawyers (left) and Neil Sell hope to earn individual state titles to end their careers. - Wesley Remmer/staff photo
Klahowya Secondary School senior co-captains Joe Sawyers (left) and Neil Sell hope to earn individual state titles to end their careers.
— image credit: Wesley Remmer/staff photo

They are the wrestling version of a one-two punch, making piñatas of the competition.

Seniors Neil Sell and Joe Sawyers are on track to become the most accomplished wrestling duo in the young history of Klahowya Secondary School.

The co-captains must finish third or better in their respective weight classes at the state championships to accomplish that feat, placing them above Darren Frasquillo and Patrick Griffin, who took second and fourth, respectively, in 2006.

Ask Sell and Sawyers, however, and it becomes clear third isn't good enough.

"I want to win a state title," Sell said, glancing at his teammate. "He does, too."

So the quest begins for Sell and Sawyers, 2009 state participants who are determined to one-up their most recent postseason appearances.

Sell has wrestled in both the 152- and 160-pound weight classes this season, taking third at state last year at 145.

But it was a disappointing finish for Sell, who lost by one point in the second round of the tournament after opening with a victory by technical fall.

He rebounded from the second-round setback to win the rest of his matches.

"I lost to somebody who I shouldn't have lost to," Sell said. "You definitely can't overlook anybody. It doesn't matter who they are."

It's been a dominant season for Sell, who boasts a career record of 108-20 and is 21-3 in postseason matches. This season, he's 23-2 with 20 pins.

Coach Wayne Gizzi said Sell has improved vastly since the 2008-09 campaign, calling him a "great all-around wrestler" who has the ability to "turn" opponents and is effective in both the top and bottom positions.

He also will wrestle at a college to be determined, with a handful of schools expressing interest.

"With Neil, you can sick him on some of the tougher kids in the lineup," Gizzi said. "I want him to get the best competition out there before he makes it to state."

The 5-foot-5-inch Sawyers, meanwhile, is smaller but just as dominant.

Sawyers is 20-5 this season, splitting time at 140, 145 and 152, but he plans to wrestle at 135 for the state championships.

"I've seen a lot of improvement from Joe this year, especially when he's wrestling on top," Gizzi said. "He's always been able to get under people and get their legs."

Sawyers, who placed fourth at state at 140 last season, also is motivated to improve upon his 2008-09 finish.

Like Sell, he suffered a close loss that derailed his state-title bid. It was an overtime defeat, in a match he led 4-0 late in the third and final period.

"I wanted more," Sawyers said. "I wanted to be in the state finals."

Both Sell and Sawyers are riding the momentum of the school's first Battle of the Bay trophy, which the Eagles earned last week by defeating Central Kitsap High School and Olympic High School.

Gizzi was unavailable for the match due to the birth of his child, so Sell and Sawyers anchored the team with their coach out.

They both won their respective matches, and they were the first to congratulate the underclassmen who helped secure the team victory.

"They are the type of guys who will stay behind and clean up the bus for the team," Gizzi said. "They treat everybody equally. There is no one person above the other, and that's what you look for as a coach."

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