We anticipated our grandson Juan “Pee Wee” Escobar would have a stellar high school wrestling career. We’d watched him a few times in junior wrestling, and he was dominant.
I had hopes he would make it to regionals as a freshman, with an outside chance for state at about 125-135 pounds, just like his father Grover and older brother, Manuel.
That kid grew while I wasn’t watching. He had to compete at 152 for Shadle Park of Spokane. I adjusted my hopes and took state out of the equation.
A lot of freshmen make it to state in lower weights, but few do from 138 on up, especially at the 3A level.
The season started and, within a week, his record was 6-1. Then he was like 12-1. Then it got to something like 22-3. Going to districts as the No. 2 seed, he was 36-6. He finished the season fourth at state.
Pat and I missed the entire season but were making plans to go to districts. Then I backed out. Our presence would change his season-long environment.
We also purposely missed regionals. When he qualified for state, we decided we’d go if he got past the first day.
Mat Classic XXX was last Friday and Saturday. At about 11 a.m. Friday, Grover texted: “He won.” Our whole family, including aunts, uncles and cousins, were excited.
Grover texted again at 5 p.m.: “He lost.” Now, the whole family was nervous, waiting for an 8:45 p.m. text saying whether he was still in.
It came at about 8 p.m: “He won.” Relief and jubilation.
Then this story got wild. Just call Pat and me the dumbest Eastern Washingtonians you’ve ever known.
We left the house at 6:30 a.m. with plenty of time to get to the Tacoma Dome by 10:30 a.m.
In all the times we’ve crossed Snoqualmie, we’ve never chained up. So we decided to go and live with whatever happened.
The snow started short of Manastash Ridge. We got to Ellensburg at about 7:40, so we stopped to buy chains.
There was snow and slush on the roadway from then on. Normally a fast driver, Pat slowed to 50, then 40, sometimes 25.
The electronic sign, just short of the pass, said we had to chain up. But suddenly, the road cleared. It was the best we’d had since Cle Elum.
“We’re not putting on those chains,” Pat said. “All we’re going to get is that stupid noise.” No argument here.
Despite the break, we were still late. We had not yet passed Issaquah when Grover texted: “He won, 5-3.” Two in a row. He was coming back. We were excited.
Pee Wee’s mom, Laura, texted: “Could you stop for some medicine for Mateo?” We went to Walgreens in Issaquah. We came out of the parking lot to the main street. At the stop, I pointed and said go left. Pat pointed right and said, “No, that’s where we came from,” then took off.
We went up this unknown street for 15-20 minutes and couldn’t find a sign that pointed to I-90. Finally, I remembered GPS.
The first turn Siri gave us was the next right, into a culdesac at the Sahalee Golf Club. It gave us another right, but there wasn’t one. We made a uie.
There Siri told us to go left for 6.7 miles to a roundabout and take the second exit. We arrived, and the first exit we saw, had the sign we were seeking. It was split-second decision time.
We took the first exit and, of course, were wrong. Siri became furious in her work trying to get us back to the roundabout.
Go right, go left, go right, go right, go left, turn in .2 miles, .3 miles. We learned all we ever wanted to know about Sammamish.
I knew I was getting old, but hadn’t noticed Pat was aging, too. We were that old fogie couple that can’t find the movie house they’ve visited all their lives. She laughed.
We had just turned toward Tacoma on I-405 when Grover texted: “He won again, 5-4.” Three in a row. He was guaranteed fourth and could still win third in his final match. I texted or called everyone.
As we arrived at the Tacoma Dome, Pat said: “Well, we didn’t miss the entire season.”
No, we didn’t.
We visited with Pee Wee and the family and friends there, then Pee Wee went off to prepare.
The match started, and he wasn’t the same Pee Wee we’d seen in the videos. His focus and aggression weren’t there, not even as it had been in previous losses. Within a minute, he was down 6-0.
Trying to get out of a predicament, he arched his back like I’d never seen anyone do before. For a moment, he looked like the Mississippi Bridge at New Orleans.
Then he came down and was pinned for only the second time in his career. The state champ and the state runner-up were unable to do that. I wasn’t disappointed. Pee Wee had already done more than I expected.
Then the ref and the third-place finisher stood — Pee Wee lay flat on his back, not moving. The opponent, a good kid, also in shock, stood over Pee Wee, the referee consoling him.
Laura was crying, Grover just looked on quietly. Jenny, with whom I was face-timing the match, had tears in her eyes. Grandma was shaken as medics worked with Pee Wee.
I was concerned, but I took comfort knowing that every athete I’ve seen go down has gotten back up.
After about three minutes, Pee Wee got to his feet with the help of coaches and trainers. We all wondered what had happened while Pee Wee spent 15-20 minutes with the doctors. Then an assistant came up and explained.
During that moment when Pee Wee was the Mississippi Bridge, he held his breath, with the opponent’s arm under his chin—perfectly legal. As he came down, he tried to inhale but couldn’t.
Pee Wee passed out before the pin was called. Later, he said he sort of knocked himself out.
He was still shaky, but he had already shrugged off the loss. He was thinking about next year.
I don’t know what Pat was thinking after that match, but I was thinking what I had thought before districts. On Sunday, leaving Portland, where we spent the night, Pat asked if I wished we hadn’t gone to the tournament.
I told her about a conversation that occurred about an hour after the match. I was alone in our section of the stands, with two guys from Mercer Island behind me. They were going over the 3A team standings. Granger came up a few times.
After hearing “Granger” several times, I turned and said “Hi.”
The younger man told me about his and his son’s encounters with Granger wrestlers. I didn’t get the man’s name, but his son is head coach at Mercer Island, and the man assists his son. We finally got around to my freshsman grandson.
“Are you Escobar?” the younger man asked, surprising me. Then he spoke this little vignette that returned my day to right side up:
His son brought Mercer Island to Spokane for regionals thinking his 152-pounder had a good shot at state because of the freshman in the field. Maybe the freshman got in by some twist of luck. The two boys met in the semifinals, and Pee Wee won by pin.
“When the match was over,” the man said, “My son called me and said, ‘Escobar is the real deal.’”
— Ted Escobar is the managing editor of The Daily Sun. Email him at email@example.com