Three times a champion
PORTLAND — As a freshman on the Sherwood High School wrestling team, Gaven Jolley got off to the best start possible.
There was absolutely, positively, without a doubt, no chance that he wasn't going to finish up the same way.
A motivated — make that, super motivated — Jolley made sure of that.
Jolley, now a Sherwood High School senior, finished his high school wrestling career on top once again, winning the state championship in the 126-pound weight class at the Class 6A state tournament, held Friday and Saturday at Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
Jolley, who scored a 9-7 decision win over Newberg sophomore Micah Worthington in Saturday's 126-pound championship match, finished his Bowmen career as a three-time Class 6A state champion. As a freshman, he claimed a state title at 113 pounds. Two years ago, as a sophomore, Jolley won state gold at 120.
Jolley's one and only loss at the Class 6A state tournament, and it was only a loss of sorts, came last year, when he was disqualified during a 126-pound semifinal bout. But, that loss provided nothing but fuel for Jolley for his senior season.
"I was extremely motivated after that loss last year," Jolley said Saturday after receiving his state-championship medal. "My goal has always been to be a four-time champion, so I lost my motivation for that, but I came back even stronger, worked even harder. I told myself to get the next one, and it would be alright."
"I'm just so happy for him," Sherwood coach Jeff Wilson said. "He's worked so hard over the past four years. He's had a lot of success, but he's also had to handle a lot of adversity the last couple of years. He handled it so well. He's done so much for the sport of wrestling in our program, and our community at Sherwood. He's done a lot. I'm just really proud of him."
Jolley's senior-season trek to the state championship didn't come without some bumps in the road. Maybe the biggest bump occurred just a week before the state tournament, when he was pinned by Worthington in the final seconds of the Pacific Conference district tournament championship match.
But, instead of doubting himself after the setback, Jolley just used it as even more motivation.
"After the match last week, I was like 'I know I can beat this kid,'" Jolley said. "It was just a bad match. I knew I was going to come back at state and beat him, and I did. It was just a mental thing."
And Jolley was mentally on his game, from start to finish, at the state tournament.
As the No. 5 seed, Jolley opened the Class 6A state event by pinning Mountain View's Trent Mills in a time of 1 minute and 27 seconds in a first-round match. In the second round, Jolley pinned Grant's Jubei Uzune in 0:45. Jolley kept rolling in the quarterfinals, getting a 15-0 technical fall win over No. 4 seed Sami Victoriano from Tualatin.
That put Jolley in the semifinals, where he looked to have a tough task by facing No. 1 seed Kahleb Diaz of Roseburg. But, again, Jolley was definitely up to the task.
Jolley took control early in the semifinal bout, getting both a takedown and a 2-point nearfall in the first 21 seconds of the match. Jolley then had back-to-back 2-point nearfalls in the second round, giving him an 8-1 lead with 0:49 left in the period. Jolley added an escape and a takedown in the third round, giving him an 11-3 major-decision victory.
That win gave Jolley just what he wanted — another shot at Worthington, who was the No. 2 seed at 126.
"Yeah, I was hoping for a rematch with him," Jolley said. "Wrestling is about 90 percent mental. The last time I wrestled that kid, I wasn't there. This time I was ready to go. I was going to take it this year."
Jolley took a 2-0 lead in the championship match on a takedown, coming with 1:10 left in the first round. Jolley upped the margin to 5-0 with a 3-point nearfall with 0:49 left in the second round. Worthington came back with an escape, but another Jolley takedown, coming with 0:12 left in the period, gave him a 7-1 lead heading into the third round.
Jolley added an escape just two seconds into the final period, making the score 8-1. Jolley was whistled for stalling and Worthington then came up with a takedown of his own, cutting the lead to 8-4 with 0:43 left in the match. Jolley countered with an escape, making the score 9-4 with 0:38 remaining.
Worthington was given another point on a stalling call on Jolley, he then got two more stalling points as time expired, leaving Jolley with a 9-7 decision victory.
"Just good position, not trying anything special, not trying to get falls, not trying to get throws, just good position," Jolley said of the key to victory. "Taking good shots when I needed to, that was it. I peaked really well this season. I lost to that kid earlier, but I prepared well this week, and that got it for me."
It also got Jolley his third state championship in four years.
"Every year has been the same," Jolley said. "I'm really proud of myself for coming back from that loss last year. That's the main thing. But I don't think there's a year that sets apart from any of the others. I work hard every year."
"He's been super motivated this year," Wilson said. "Even taking that loss in the district tournament. He's always been someone who takes something like that and learns from it. I think that's probably the thing I'm most proud of him for. Every year, he seems to have a couple tough losses, and he's come back stronger from it."
Stronger and, again, a state champion.
"It was just relief," Jolley said of his season-season title victory. "Getting that last win. This was my last time here in the Coliseum. I was really excited that I could leave on a good note. I'm really proud of myself."
"It's unbelievable. You have to sit back and reflect on all he's done," Wilson said. "It couldn't have happened to a better kid. He's worked hard and deserves everything that he's got."
Jolley finished his high-school wrestling career with a record of 126-10. His only loss this season against a wrestler from Oregon was the district tournament setback to Worthington.
Jolley, with his state championship performance, helped the Bowmen finish in eighth place in the team standings at the state tournament with 84.5 points. Roseburg finished in first place with a score of 263. Newberg was second at 256.