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Bellevue's Villani looking for another state title at Mat Classic | Prep sports news
Christian Villani never had to look far when he needed an inspiring sports figure.
While his peers practiced ally-oops as Shawn Kemp and Gary Payton, or scored backyard touchdowns as local collegiate and professional greats from the gridiron, Villani's dreams started much closer to home.
"My brother is my idol," Villani said of his older brother Josh, a multiple-time judo national champion. "I pretty much started the day I was born."
Both boys competed in judo tournaments as youngsters, and both found plenty of success.
Josh won some two-dozen national championships, while Christian has two national championships from his youth, and a host of state tournament placings.
He won the sub-regional championship at 145 pounds for Bellevue two weeks ago, punching his ticket to Saturday's Regionals at Skyline with a technical fall win over Mount Si's Riley Absher in the finals.
Whenever he takes the wrestling mat for Bellevue, those judo roots are never far from his mind. At the 3A state championships Friday in the Tacoma Dome, where Villani will try to make it back-to-back titles, it will be more present than ever.
"The different styles have really helped me out," Villani said. "It was always hand-in-hand."
After capping his sophomore season with the program's first state championship since 1978, Villani and assistant coach Kyle Smith believe this season can bring even greater returns.
"The competitive edge is definitely there," Smith said. "His work ethic is fantastic, he's so effortless, so naturally and athletically gifted."
Despite growing immensely in his first two years on the prep mat, and owning a 3A state championship by virtue of his run to a state title last year, Villani said there is still plenty for him to learn. He said Smith has provided a strong technical element, with his mindset a constant ode to the brother and father who helped forge him as a competitor in judo.
"All of this is not even me, it is the coaches and the people around me," he said. "My dad and brother keep me grounded and humble."
Keeping his mind focused on the future and another state title is the challenge for Villani this year, and one Smith said he has met head-on, even despite a back injury that has limited his time on the mat.
He was second at last weekend's Regional round, and opens his Mat Classic at 11:40 a.m. against Grover Escobar, a senior from Shadle Park.
"I still have a lot to learn in everything I do," Villani said. "I just want to wrestle one match at a time."