There's no better way to say it — West Linn's Sean Harman is a winner.
Harman, a graduated senior who was a mainstay on the Lions' wrestling team over the past four years, recently finished his high school career as the most decorated wrestler in school history.
During his varsity career with the Lions, Harman won four straight Three Rivers League titles (at 145 pounds, 152, 160 and 170), reached the Class 6A state tournament all four years, reached the championship match at state all four years and won state titles in 2017, 2018 and 2019.
For all those reasons and more, Harman has been named the West Linn Tidings 2019 Athlete of the Year. The Athlete of the Year honor is awarded annually to the top senior athlete at West Linn High School. Harman, 19, will continue his athletic career next year as a member of the University of Missouri men's wrestling team.
The announcement of Harman's selection came as no surprise to West Linn coach Doug Samarron; he's had a front-row seat for almost all of Harman's amazing exploits over the past four years.
"Sean is a focused person who knows and understands how to succeed," Samarron said. "He's not afraid of hard work and exercises a great deal of discipline. Successful yet humble. Truly interested in helping others. Always willing to reach out and share. A good friend. A real class act."
For Harman, losing was never an option for his senior season. He entered the 2018-19 season as a three-time league champion, a two-time state champ and coming off an unbeaten junior year.
Those previous accomplishments, however, only made Harman more focused on his last year of high school wrestling.
"To be honest with you, I was pretty confident," Harman said. "If I had taken time off all summer, I'd have been a little nervous, but I went to nationals and got through that. Even when I was mostly wrestling in Oregon, I would fly to Pennsylvania for a tournament and get a tough match."
Those tough matches — the ones he got in league, in Oregon's biggest tournaments and in competitions across the country — not only made Harman better, they also showed him that he still had room to improve and keep growing.
"Even though I was fairly dominant in Oregon, I wasn't quite as dominant across the country," he said. "I was winning big matches and I was placing high at national tournaments, but I wasn't quite winning them. So as far as I was concerned, I still had a lot of things to work on. Becoming complacent was a very hard thing to do because there's always a bigger, badder wrestler out there that can beat you."
Those wrestlers, however, didn't live in Oregon and didn't wrestle at 170 pounds this year. Harman tore through the regular season like nobody's business, going unbeaten in the TRL and winning tournament titles at David Douglas, the Rose City Championships, the Pacific Coast Wrestling Championships, the Oregon Classic and the Reser's Tournament of Champions.
"In state, there were a handful of matches where the guy pushed a little harder than I thought he was going to," Harman said. "I didn't necessarily have a ton of close matches, but I was in a couple of dogfights."
Harman recalled his title match in the Reser's Tournament of Champions — he eventually won a 15-5 major decision over Sweet Home's Hayden McDonald — but got tested along the way.
"I got shook a little bit, but then I got back into my groove," Harman said. "But part of that was that I had a lot of things going on. I actually brought my tuxedo because after that, I was going to go to a dance with a bunch of my friends. I felt like I was in the game, but I had a lot of distractions. That was probably the only time when I was a little worried about a match."
"Sean is the most decorated wrestler to graduate from (West Linn)," Samarron said. "He has also established himself as one of the top wrestlers in the country by placing in major national tournaments."
While Harman may have been the most feared wrestler in Oregon in 2018-19, even he had some challenges to overcome during his senior campaign.
While Oregon's other 170-pounders didn't have much luck stopping Harman — he went 48-0 as a senior — he injured his right elbow, popped a bursa sac in his knee and had to deal with various additional nicks and dents along the way. His elbow injury was diagnosed as a grade 1 sprain to his ulnar collateral ligament.
"That was a major roadblock," he admitted. "There were days when I was like 'Man, my elbow hurts. I'm pissed off and I just wish I could wrestle how I normally wrestle.' Aside from my elbow, there were a couple of other little things — I popped a bursa sac in my knee — silly little injuries like that."
In typical Harman fashion, however, he didn't let them slow him down or get him down; instead, he used them to make him a better wrestler.
"It was kind of a blessing in disguise to be honest," Harman said. "It made me change my game and evolve as a wrestler. So instead of leading with my right foot all the time, a lot of times I would lead with my left foot, or when I was set up and doing my normal attacks with my right hand, I'd switch up and do my attacks on the left side.
"It made it a lot more interesting and it wasn't the most comfortable, but looking back, I wouldn't change anything. It was definitely good for my wrestling."
Down the Stretch
Regardless of his physical condition, Harman was focused, determined and ready as he came into the final leg of his senior season.
In the Three Rivers League district tournament at West Linn High School, Harman opened his tournament with a bye, pinned his first two opponents, then posted a 19-4 technical fall victory over Oregon City's Mannix Perry in the final to secure his fourth straight TRL title.
Harman showed his competitive edge at state, too, winning five straight matches at the 6A tournament, taking his first three matches by pinfall and the last two by technical falls. In the championship, Harman powered past second-seeded Roseburg senior Logan Folsom with another technical fall, winning 24-9 with 29 seconds left the third period.
"Going into senior year … I made a goal to work on my top game, work on pinning guys and getting more turns from the top position. That was a challenge for me," he said. "And I had to kind of go out of my comfort zone there. But aside from those (injuries), there wasn't a moment where I thought it wasn't going to pan out."
For his part, Samarron was at least as confident as Harman about his star wrestler's swan song.
"Sean is real good at wrestling — I didn't have much to offer other than some mat strategy," he said. "Sean has a great mind for wrestling. He understands technique, position and strategy better than most. It probably has a lot to do with growing up in a wrestling family."
The State Tournament
Throughout his high school career, Harman has always excelled on the state's biggest stages, and in Oregon, that means the Class 6A state tournament at Portland's Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
Over the course of his four years as a West Linn High School wrestler, Harman posted a near-perfect record of 19-1 (including two first-round byes) at the state tournament. Through it all, he remembers vividly his first time at the tournament, his first championship and his last.
"I think for me, one of the best things was walking into the arena on the first day," he said. "I remember from my freshman year, that feeling in your gut that it's just crazy. Then, walking out for finals was pretty crazy, too."
Regarding his first state title — a third-round pin of Century's Ty Simko at 152 pounds in 2017 — Harman said: "I don't think about it a ton, but I'll tear up to this day thinking about my sophomore year state final.
"When I did win it that first time, I could really feel the stresses and the burdens that I felt from that year, I feel like they just fell off me. And I remember to this day, when I stood up to look up at the crowd, I stood up and I felt so light. I felt like I was flying. Not in the sense where I was so happy, but I really felt like I was flying and I was crying and it was a very crazy moment."
His last championship, however, will remain special. That win marked his final day on the mat as a West Linn wrestler and one that he was able to share with the people he loves most.
"Probably what comes to my mind first is just joy," he said. "What I remember, when I finally finished … was that I got more enjoyment from hugging my father and my coach and my brothers, and then when I got into the stands, my mom, than winning the title itself. Even though (winning) was very special, they were the reason it was really special. Everyone who was there made it really special."
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