SILVERDALE – Some wresting invitationals are cakewalks. And then there is the Matman Classic – the last high-profile tournament of the regular season.
And this year’s edition of the Matman Classic showcased a super-sized bracket at 145 pounds involving four reigning state champions.
When the dust settled, Lake Stevens High’s Eric Soler stood tallest, dispatching three-time state champion Jake Velarde of North Kitsap in the semifinals with a 3-1 decision, then rolling past Graham-Kapowsin’s Ian Steen, 8-4, for the title.
Soler’s win also gave the team title to the Vikings by the slimmest of margins – 186 to 1851/2 points over defending Class 4A champ Tahoma.
Not a bad showing for a guy who is still rounding into form after suffering a broken hand earlier in the season.
“I would say today is a good day,” Soler said. “This tournament is tougher than my (4A) state bracket will be.”
The match folks packed the grandstands to see was the Soler-Velarde semifinal. Velarde was undefeated, and next month is set to try to become the 10th wrestler to win four state titles.
The score was tied 1-1 when Soler scored a takedown in the final seconds.
In the other semifinal, Steen upended South Puget Sound League foe Lucas Somera of Enumclaw. The match was stopped when Somera suffered a right-knee dislocation.
“I knew it was going to be a long day,” Steen said. “These guys are a bunch of studs.”
Soler scored three reversals, including the clincher with 20 seconds to go, for an 8-4 decision over Steen.
“It was a tough bracket, and it felt good to get through it,” Soler said. “This gets me feeling confident going into state.”
Orting had the lone repeat champion in sophomore Fred Green, who won the 103 title last season. He beat Graham-Kapowsin’s Spencer Schroeder, 10-2, in the 113 final.
“A win is a win, no matter what the score is,” Green said. “I’d say I controlled every match I wrestled.”
Beau Gore – Green’s teammate at 152 – gave the Cardinals a second winner by defeating Enumclaw’s Justin Mitchell, 8-4.
Tahoma crowned four champions with Tim Whitehead at 126 (6-4 win over Enumclaw’s Jerad Paul), Cruz Velasquez at 132 (4-2 decision in four overtimes over Shelton’s Jakeob Garrick), Garret Autrey at 182 (pin in 2:29 over Enumclaw’s Kelyn Wallin) and Matt Hopkins at 220 (in 1:55 over Rogers’ Matt Lockey).
Graham-Kapowsin had a pair of winners in Adam Romano at 138 (injury default over teammate Corde Ferreira) and Joe Gomez at 195 (5-0 decision over Enumclaw’s Wyley Stewart).
Lakes Stevens, Tahoma, Graham-Kapowsin and Enumclaw each had five finalists.