The differences between winning a state title and not were mostly subtle for Tahoma at Mat Classic XXV on Saturday – a takedown here, an extra second there.
But when added up, those differences became a deficit too big for the defending champion Bears to overcome.
A year after putting together a nearly flawless run to a 4A title and scoring 190 points along the way, Tahoma could only watch as Lake Stevens shredded its way through the 4A ranks. It was the ninth title for the Vikings.
The Bears had to settle for second place for the second time in the four seasons.
Lake Stevens scored 162 points, Tahoma was second at 120, and Graham-Kapowsin was third at 113.5.
The mighty didn’t fall hard, but they fell none the less.
“Ultimately we would have liked to have won it all, but our kids wrestled their hearts out.” Tahoma coach Chris Feist said. “If that gets us a second-place trophy I am proud of them for that. That’s all you can ask.”
It was a rough final round for the Bears, who sent three to the championship round only to miss the top of the podium each time.
Perhaps no match epitomized Tahoma’s state tournament experience more than Tim Whitehead’s title match at 120. The senior trailed 3-0 to Pasco’s Timmy Martinez late in the third round before snagging a takedown in the closing seconds to close to 3-2. He let Martinez up for the escape point, but before Whitehead could shoot in again time ticked away as Martinez won, 4-2.
Whitehead brought his fists to his forehead and rocked onto to his back in frustration. Just like the Bears had done at state the last two days, Whitehead had come so close to a title and just missed.
It was a similar feeling for Tahoma teammate Matt Hopkins (195). He and 4A South Puget Sound League rival Joseph Gomez of Graham-Kapowsin wrestled to a 1-1 tie through two overtime periods before Gomez scored an escape point with 18 seconds to go in the third overtime and held on for a 2-1 win.
Gomez was ecstatic, having lost two previous times to Hopkins this season, while Hopkins left the mat furious.
“I was just trying to wrestle safe after losing to him twice,” Gomez said. “I guess it paid off in the end. I just won state. What more can I say.”
Tahoma wasn’t alone with its bittersweet feelings on Saturday. For the second successive year, Yelm High School brothers Dillon Harris (138) and Darren Harris (113) reached the finals but just missed their goal of each winning a state title.
This time it was a reversal of fortune because Dillon won his first championship, and Darren finished second. Dillon rolled Kent Meridian’s Joshua Smith on his back with 45 seconds remaining in the second round to end a quest years in the making. Dillon held a 3-2 lead when the pin came.
“I have been waiting for this for three years,” Dillon said. “I knew I wasn’t going to let it slip again. I have been thinking about this every day.”
Darren was pinned by Noah Cuzzetto of Edmonds-Woodway in the second round of his title match.
“We both came into this again hoping to each win a state,” Dillon said. “We couldn’t do it last year and we went for it again. We just couldn’t make it happen. I am proud of him though. He did his best.”
TEAM WINNER: Lake Stevens (162 points).
LOCAL INDIVIDUAL CHAMPIONS: Dillon Harris, sr., Yelm (138); Joseph Gomez, sr., Graham-Kapowsin (195); Matt Voss, jr., Puyallup (220).
RECAP: Lake Stevens captured its ninth team title in the Mat Classic era. Mead’s Chandler Rogers won the 170 title with a pin over Evergreen of Vancouver’s Anthony Thomas – and can become a four-time state champion in 2014.