Mat Classic XXVI: Mighty Lake Stevens swamps 4A field

Defending champ Vikings have field day on first day, building huge lead and sending 6 to the state semifinals

todd.milles@thenewstribune.comFebruary 22, 2014 

Every once in a while, a small school in Class 1A or 2B/1B with big-level wrestling talent will storm a Mat Classic and sew up a team race after the first day.

But the big boys traditionally sweat it out right up to the last match of championship finals.

That was really expected to be the case for Mat Classic XXVI, the state championships at the Tacoma Dome. At least four Class 4A schools came into the tournament with legitimate cases for winning the title.

But then defending 4A champion Lake Stevens High School walked through the doors Friday morning, took the mat and wrestled crazy good.

Every one of the 11 Vikings in the tournament won at least one match. They won 19 matches overall. They have a classification-best six wrestlers in the semifinals, led by fellow News Tribune “Untouchables” Noah Cuzzetto at 132 pounds and Cody Vigoren at 195.

With a whopping 70 points, the Vikings are in control of the 4A tournament.

“We had as good a day as I could have asked for before the tournament started,” Lake Stevens coach Brent Barnes said. “It started this morning, and it continued through the night.”

Speaking of the elite, all nine of the “Untouchables” advanced to the semifinals. One of them is Kingston High School’s Bobby Reece, who is vying to become the 11th boy to win four state titles.

Decatur had a grand day, too, advancing four wrestlers to the semifinals. The Gators (62 points) lead North Central (501/2) in 3A.

Sedro-Woolley (2A), Blaine (1A), Liberty Bell (2B/1B) and the Warden girls all lead their team-title races.

If Lake Stevens goes on and closes the deal — it seems inevitable now with all of the Vikings still alive in the championship bracket — it would earn its 10th state wrestling title in school history.

In fact, Barnes has this program on one gigantic run — five 4A titles in the past seven seasons.

As much as the Vikings were part of the group of co-favorites, nobody could have seen this coming. Heck, they did not even win their regional tournament last week — Yelm did.

“Watching our kids ... they’re having fun. They are relaxed. They feel part of it. It is a great example of being on a team,” Barnes said. “I think they expect it.”

Tahoma is second with 551/2 points. Mathematically, the South Puget Sound League North Division powerhouse is still in the running, but the Vikings would have to suffer a colossal meltdown to let anyone back in it.

Yet the Bears are clinging to their latest idea for team solidarity. Every member of the team, including coach Chris Feist, is wearing a headband around the Dome.

“I kind of thought about it earlier in the year and talked to the other ninth-graders about it. I don’t know which one went to talk to Feist about it ... but here we are,” said 113-pounder Nick Whitehead, one of three Bears who reached the 4A semifinals.

“It kind of brings us together.”

Having four head-to-head matches against North Central — the leader after the first round — Decatur faced a crucial quarterfinal round Friday.

The Gators went 3-1 to vault to the top of the standings. One of those wins came at 126, where sophomore Leviticus Arizpe blanked Kiegan Schauer, 9-0.

“All that means is that we are one step closer,” Arizpe said. “Hopefully we can take it.”

North Central, a Greater Spokane League school, likely will be the biggest threat in preventing the Gators from winning their first wrestling state title. The Indians brought only six wrestlers but advanced a 3A-best five to the state semifinals.

“They’re tough. They’ve got some quality kids,” Decatur coach Mike Bressler said. “The points we’ve gotten through the back door have been huge. We’ve got to keep it going.”

Reece is halfway to his fourth title. In the Class 2A quarterfinals at 170, he started slow but finished off Cheney’s Josh Wessels with a pin in 3 minutes, 34 seconds.

“I feel good,” Reece said. “Just taking it one match at a time. ... It is a great opportunity. I am just glad to be here.”

Todd Milles: 253-597-8442 todd.milles@thenewstribune.com

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