Buddies traverse the world of high school wrestling
March 12, 2013
By Lillian O'Rorke
When Issaquah High School’s wrestling coach Kirk Hyatt gives his recruitment speech every year, he always tells his athletes the same thing: If you are going to recruit someone, recruit your best friend.
“There are going to be times when you need them, and then there are going to be times when you need them,” Hyatt said.
Seniors Matt Solusod and Jerdon Helgeson know what he is talking about. The two have been wrestling since middle school, and together they have gone from dreading practice to serving as co-captains for Issaquah’s varsity team.
“I kind of despised it. I was also scared,” Solusod said. “My freshman year was the worse. Everyone my year was bigger and stronger.”
That was also about the time he and Helgeson went from being familiar faces in the wrestling room to being best friends who always have the other’s back.
“I started to like it, because the wrestling team is a brotherhood. It’s like a family to me,” Solusod said. “I think its because we go through wrestling together. We go through all the suffering and pain, and we beat each other up.”
“We’re like brothers pretty much,” Helgeson said. “We always try to get out and see each other as much as possible.”
Every year, the two boys and their families get together for the Fourth of July. When there aren’t any fireworks to shoot off, Solusod and Helgeson grab as many of their wrestling teammates as possible to go for group runs or head to Echo Lake.
During the wrestling season, when lazy days by the water have all but faded away, their friendship comes in handy.
“Because we’re so close, we can depend on each other and lean on each other if we are down and out,” Solusod said. And the same goes if one of them grabs a victory on the mat. “Seeing someone win gets you amped up and fired up to win your match.”
At the beginning of their sophomore season, Helgeson started out in the 152-pound weight class, but decided to drop four weight classes down to 130. He did it in three weeks, never missing a single weigh-in, he said. The two boys recalled one particularly challenging day during those three weeks. It was a half-day at school and Helgeson was six pounds over weight. Issaquah had a match later that evening. So, Helgeson ran 12 miles, around and around the track.
“I came back in and I was so tired, and my feet had blisters on them,” Helgeson said. “I was so frustrated and I wanted to cry. And he was there and supported me through the whole thing.”
By weigh-in that night, Helgeson was under weight, so the two celebrated by sharing Solusod’s food.
The boys continued to see each other through the bad and celebrate the good. In their senior year, Issaquah went 9-1 in the regular season, and finished second in KingCo and third in the Region 3 tournament.
Helgeson had never made it to state and after placing second at KingCo it looked like he might just make it this year. But first, he had to beat Tekwon Wallace, who eventually won the silver at the Mat Classic. The two were deadlocked into triple overtime.
“That was tragic with Jerdon losing at regionals,” Hyatt said. “That hit home, and having your best friend there helps.”
Helgeson got the chance to return the favor the following week. Solusod had rebounded after a first-round loss at state to pin his 220-pound opponent in under a minute. Still alive in the fight to medal, he was four matches away from possibly taking third place when he was pinned in the first round.
“It was heartbreaking,” Solusod said. “Because I’ve been doing it for five years and committing so much time, to have it just end in an instant. It was so sudden.”
Both seniors have moved on since and are planning their next phase of life. Solusod said he is looking forward to focusing on his academics next year at Washington State University. Helgeson is also planning to attend WSU, where he wants to pursue pre-dental studies. The two would be roommates, he said, but Solusod snores too loudly.