Jon Lee is a bit nervous about getting his permit to drive, but put the Hermiston freshman on the mat and he will take on all-comers.
Lee, who is ranked No. 5 at 220 pounds in the Class 3A Washington Wrestling Report, placed second at the District 8 Tournament on Saturday at Hermiston High School, earning a trip to the regional tournament this weekend in Yelm, Wash.
“It’s awesome having a freshman come in and be at the level he is to compete,” Bulldogs coach Kyle Larson said. “He is there. He is mature and athletic, and he uses his abilities in matches.”
Lee knew he would have some tough competition at district, so he came prepared.
“I do my homework on my opponents, and that calms me down,” Lee said.
Lee typically weighs in about 211 pounds, still light for his weight class, but it has not been a detriment to his season.
Lee is 29-11 on the year, and that includes taking some lumps at elite tournaments like Tri-State and Gut Check.
In the Mid-Columbia Conference, he lost twice — to Pasco’s Damian Silva and Hanford’s Jonathan Burt. Both are in the 4A division.
He won the Farm City Tournament, placed sixth at Gut Check and was fifth at the Tyrone Woods Memorial Tournament.
“Once I figured out high school wrestling wasn’t as scary as I thought it would be, it has been a lot of fun, and I have liked going to different places. We have a lot more competition in Washington than in Oregon.”
All that said, Lee still admits there are a few nerves heading into the tournament.
Larson isn’t too concerned.
“His edge is his will to win,” Larson said. “He doesn’t like to lose. Every match, he thinks he can win.”
Lee did not grow up in the Hermiston youth wrestling program, but he started the sport in the third grade when his family lived in Gladstone. They moved to Hermiston when Lee was in the sixth grade.
“When I moved here, it was a totally different environment,” Lee said. “It was intense. At that time, Hermiston had a really good program. I took the seventh grade off.”
Lee returned to the mat in the eighth grade, sorry that he skipped a year.
“I realized that my technique was rusty,” he said. “When I was in the eighth grade, I realized in a year I would be wrestling juniors and seniors, and I was a little intimidated. Then I realized with my physical attributes, it put me ahead of others. I was 10 pounds when I was born, and I just kept getting bigger. I have been gifted with what I have, but I realize I don’t work as hard as I should sometimes.”
At 6-foot-3, Lee towers over some opponents who are shorter and stockier, but once he plants his size 13 foot on the line, he’s ready for business.
“His dad (James) had him in multiple clubs growing up,” Larson said. “The work was done years ago. He has been to good tournaments. This isn’t anything he hasn’t seen before.”
And now that he has put in the work, he’s ready to reap the rewards.
“My goal is to be the first person from Oregon to place first at state in Washington,” Lee said.