Title matches cap big weekend at Mat Classic XXVI in Tacoma

Staff writerFebruary 22, 2014 

A team of six wrestlers isn’t a huge haul to bring in for a top-10 Mat Classic finish, let alone a run at a state wrestling championship.

But Luke Leifer had a strong hunch. So at practice, the coach at North Central High School gathered his guys around and gave them a pep talk Knute Rockne would have signed off on.

“We kind of had been telling the kids all week, ‘We have a chance,’ ” Leifer said. “We have the horses, but we had to have a flawless tournament.”

How about almost perfect? The Indians were just that at Mat Classic XXVI, riding the dynamic, state title-holding Quintanilla brothers to their first Class 3A team championship.

They scored 108½ points — 3A’s lowest winning total since East Valley of Spokane won with 97 points back in 1997 — to edge hard-luck runner-up Decatur (100), Sunnyside (97) and defending state champion University (94) in the Tacoma Dome.

Lake Stevens got a late scare from Moses Lake before finishing off the 4A title chase with dramatic come-from-behind victory from Michael Soler in the 113-pound finals. He got a takedown in the final five seconds to stun Chieftains’ standout Fernando Leyva, 6-5.

Two other team races came down to late matches Saturday.

In 2A, Deer Park’s Trevor Eicher won a 16-0 decision over Centralia’s Kyzer Bailey at 182 to clinch the Stags' (109 points) team title over first-day leader Sedro-Woolley (104).

And Blaine’s Mikey Antczak defeated Chewelah’s Dustin Olson, 5-1, to win at 285, giving the Borderites their first 1A title since 1990.

As far as The News Tribune’s nine “Untouchables,” Kingston’s Bobby Reece (2A 170) became the fourth boy to win four state titles for his career. He pinned Sedro-Woolley’s Nate Vaughn in 1 minute, 28 seconds. And nationally-ranked Ryan Christensen won his second 4A title for Woodinville with an 11-4 decision over Moses Lake’s Jordan Lacelle at 182.

One “Untouchables” wrestler was taken down. Lake Stevens’ Noah Cuzzetto, a two-time state champion, was upended in overtime by Union’s Junior Godinho, 6-2, in the 132 finals at 4A.

In a very different storyline from the Greater Spokane League, it is North Central that goes into the offseason stationed on the highest perch, eclipsing its previous best finish of third place, set in 2010.

Of the Indians’ six wrestlers, five went to the semifinals. Three made the finals. And the Quintanillas took it from there as Clai, a ninth-grader, won the 106 title over Sunnyside’s Jacob Mendoza (5-0 decision) — followed by Izaec, a junior, who edged Marysville-Pilchuck’s Killian Page (3-2 decision) for the 160 crown.

“At the hotel ... the feel in the room, we just had the confidence, like, ‘We are winning this,’” Leifer said. “It is cool, because we haven’t always had a (team-title) situation here.”

Decatur did crown a champion Saturday night — junior Isaiah Diggs at 138. He hung on for a 7-6 decision over Mountain View’s Kenji Yamashita.

“I thought we did great,” Diggs said. “None of us gave up. We kept fighting. Some of us didn’t win ... some of us didn’t place. Some of us placed high.”

A big Lake Stevens lead was trimmed to 123-116½ by Moses Lake when Soler and Leyva took the mat. If Leyva, who grabbed a 5-3 lead with 1:10 to go, could hold on, the Chieftains would be close.

But Soler took a shot with five seconds remaining, grabbed Leyva’s leg and earned the match-clinching takedown that essentially sealed up the Vikings’ repeat effort — and 10th team title overall.

“We work on that in practice all the time where we’ve got 10 seconds left, and you’ve got to get a shot in,” Soler said. “I thought about the team and had to get it.”

Two locals departed the Dome with three state titles — Cascade Christian senior Josh Crager and Orting junior Fred Green.

It was a bit of redemption for Crager, who lost last season in the championship finals. A year later, the result was completely different — a fall in 4:24 over Tonasket’s Jorge Juarez in the 132 title match at 1A.

“I am satisfied,” said Crager, a teenager with more wrestling moves than words.

Green handled Toppenish’s Sergio Morales, 11-0, in the 126 finals at 2A. With former four-time state champion Drew Templeman watching from nearby, Green saluted his former training partner, knowing next year he will have a shot to join the four-timer club.

“Every time he is in town (from Wyoming), he gives me more advice on what to do and what not to do,” Green said. “He also helps calm my nerves knowing there is someone who has reached my goal, and can help me along the way.”

Reece was simply dominant from the start to finish this weekend. It was his first victory by pin in four state finals’ appearances.

Afterward his younger brother, Jorden, ran into the arena and gave him a big hug.

Asked if he gave his sibling some of that four-timer mojo for the future, Reece grinned.

“I hope so, I hope so,” he said. “It’s cool to have the opportunity to do that.”

And Christensen, a Wisconsin signee, was just as low-key about celebrating his going-out title as Reece.

“I’ve been in a lot of big matches,” said Christensen, a seven-time national freestyle champion. “I don’t see a big need to celebrate a whole lot — not that I am not excited. There is no need to show off, I guess.

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

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