How would Pat Larson of Sandpoint High celebrate a third state wrestling championship and his first undefeated season?
No to the tired answer of a trip to Disneyland.
How about a second honeymoon?
Perhaps. Just before the season started, Larson married his sweetheart, whom he had dated for three years. Pat and Tonya, a junior at Sandpoint, live in a three-bedroom house on his parents’ property in Colburn.
They spent a week honeymooning at the Fairmont Hot Springs.
“Sooner or later we were going to get married so it just was the right thing to do now,” Larson said.
Tonya will be accompanying Pat to state, but will stay in a separate motel room so her husband can focus on business.
The couple are supported by both sets of parents, but Pat will seek a part-time job after the season to help with living expenses.
They don’t plan to start a family right away because Pat wants to get a college education.
Pat credits Tonya as a major influence in his life, especially in the classroom.
“We’re happy, very, very happy,” Pat said.
It’s quite evident, especially considering his record this season.
Coming back from a chaotic junior season - in which he either temporarily quit or just took some time off, depending on whom you listen to - the 152-pound Larson takes a 27-0 record into the State A-1 Tournament, which begins a three-day run today at Idaho State University.
Larson, who sports a 113-8 career record, captured state titles as a freshman and sophomore. Last year he stumbled at state, losing in the semifinals and finishing third. Interestingly, his eight losses have been to seniors.
He was heartbroken after last year because he wanted to join former Bulldog Brett Lawrence as a four-time state champ.
But a knee injury and the personal problems were opponents he couldn’t overcome last year. They caught up with him at state.
So he came back this season healthy, physically and mentally. Of his 27 victories, 25 have been by pin, 24 of those coming in the first period. His fastest pin has been 10 seconds.
About 95 percent of his victories in his career have been by pin.
“I was never 100 percent last year,” Larson said. “That’s one of the things that has driven me this year. I’m really glad it’s behind me. I’m wrestling the best that I ever have, I’m in the best shape of my life. I wasn’t all there mentally last year.”
Larson is one of the strongest wrestlers, pound for pound, coach Dan Taylor has ever coached.
“I call him the ‘Mike Tyson of Sandpoint,”’ Taylor said. “He’s definitely very aggressive, but he stays in good body position.”
He had to cut 30 pounds before the season. He could have wrestled at 160 or 171, but he wanted to redeem himself at 152.
“Coach Taylor put me on a strict diet,” Larson said. “But once I got down to 152 I could eat whatever I want and still maintain my weight.”
His version of eating almost anything he wants still differs dramatically from a meat-and-potatoes menu. He can’t eat his favorite food - steak - but he doesn’t have to dine strictly on water and bland pasta, either.
Larson will be out to win as quickly as possible in his state matches. He’ll try to catch opponents in a move he’s not only made famous but his teammates named after him - The Larson.
“My teammates started calling it The Larson my sophomore year,” he said. “It’s kind of a front headlock throw, and I can throw it from almost any position. That’s how I get my pins the majority of the time.”
Taylor said he passed the move on to Larson after Taylor’s son, Zac, described the move to him over the phone.
“Pat likes to wrestle upper body; he really perfected it last year,” Taylor said.
Larson has scheduled recruiting visits to Brigham Young and Boise State. He wants to study forestry and wildlife and be a fish and game officer.
This weekend, Larson expects a golden end in more ways than one.
He not only wants a third individual gold medal, but he wants to complete his high school career on a fourth straight state-title team.
“I’m going to get both,” Larson said.
And anybody standing in his way will likely fall victim of The Larson.
Sandpoint, which has three No. 1 seeds and two No. 2s, takes seven regional champs and 14 qualifiers to state. District III champ Meridian is taking the most qualifiers with 16.
The team considered to have the best chance at challenging 3-time champ Sandpoint is Idaho Falls. The Tigers advanced 12 and have the same number of top seeds.
No other A-1 team has won four consecutive championships.
Another traditional power, Capital of Boise, is taking 14 to state.
Post Falls junior Al Mack (103), who was seeded fourth last year en route to winning a state title, is seeded third despite being a defending champion. Mack (32-4) lost to No. 2 seed Joseph Corral of Meridian 5-4 at the Clearwater Classic tourney at Lewiston.
“He’s got a good shot to repeat,” Post Falls coach Dennis Amende said.
In addition to Larson and Mack, there are several other North Idaho wrestlers that are expected to win or contend for gold.
Take undefeated junior Jared Lawrence of Sandpoint, for example. He’ll walk away with a state title.
Others? Consider Lawrence’s teammates: Cody Crawford or Zach Vaughan (both 125); Brandon Larson (130); Shawn Garner (140); A.J. Chubb (160); and Joe Tuinstra (171).
At heavyweight there’s Laki Ah Hi of Lewiston and Matt Smith of Post Falls.
Including Mack and Lawrence, there are just three returning state champs.
The other is senior Justin Hugo (34-2) of Eagle, a champ last year at 119. He’s a No. 3 seed at 125.
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MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: At the mat The first round of the state wrestling tournament begins today at 1 p.m. PST, with one round of consolation matches at 7. Quarterfinals will be at 8 a.m. on Friday, and semifinals at 6:30 p.m. Championship finals will follow consolation finals at 3 p.m. on Saturday.