When Sam Peterson outlasted freshman Dustyn Camacho of O’Dea with a 6-4 decision in the Class 3A 220-pound state championship inside the Tacoma Dome on Feb. 18, the junior sent his Bonney Lake team to new heights as the win clinched the state title for the Panthers at Mat Classic XXIX.
For months, Bonney Lake was hailed as the No. 1 program in the state, where it became a foregone conclusion by many that the Panthers would walk out of the Tacoma Dome with the team title in hand.
But more important than any outsider views on the team, this is what the Panthers believed would happen. It was their time to rise to the occasion.
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“We proved that we were the best. We said it from the start of the season that we would win the state title, and we went out and proved it,” said Brandon Kaylor, who won his third state title and his first 113-pound championship. “It was our mindset the entire season — not to be good or considered the top program, but to go out and show that we can back up our claims. We weren’t going to lay down for anyone.”
It didn’t matter if it was expected or not, whether the challenge from other teams at state be tougher to overcome, or if the pressure of the circumstances overwhelm the team in the heat of the moment. Many teams have faltered and come up short in the end.
It was our mindset the entire season – not to be good or considered the top program, but to go out and show that we can back up our claims. We weren’t going to lay down for anyone.
“We set the goals at the beginning of the season to be on top, and we all did our part to earn the state title,” said Mason Sabin, who finished in second place after losing a 20-12 decision against Stanwood’s Mason Phillips in the 145-pound finals.
At regionals, a week before the state meet, Bonney Lake coach Dan Pitsch said two things needed to happen for Bonney Lake to win the title, the first of which was that every wrestler needed to win a match at state — a feat that all 10 wrestlers accomplished.
The second became more prophetic; Pitsch predicted that the state title would be decided by the team’s heavyweights.
Enter Sam Peterson.
“I wasn’t trying to focus on the team score, I was just trying to focus on my finals match. It didn’t help that they announced that my match would decide the (3A) state title,” Peterson joked. “Once I won and I saw all my coached running around cheering, I think that was the first time I really thought about what just happened. It was an incredible feeling and something I will remember the rest of my life.”
“We would have had the title earlier if someone won their match,” jabbed Brenden Chaowanibipool at Sabin, sitting across from him. “It was an incredible feeling because everyone from our area was cheering for that match. Whenever (Camacho) made a takedown or picked up points, the Kelso crowd started cheering. We had faith (Sam) would get the job done.”
Chaowanibipool won the 106-pound championship, and Peterson also took home an academic state title as well, making the junior heavyweight a two-time state champion from Mat Classic.
Now that the dust has settled and time has passed, the Bonney Lake wrestling program has finally reached the pinnacle of the wrestling world in the state.
Once I won and I saw all my coached running around cheering, I think that was the first time I really thought about what just happened. It was an incredible feeling and something I will remember the rest of my life.
So what is left for this squad that graduates out five of its 10 wrestlers who qualified for state?
“Right now I think it’s trying to figure out what tournaments will benefit this offseason and next year. We’re going to wait and see who will be invited to Fargo (Vaughan Cadet and Junior Nationals Wrestling tournament),” Pitsch said. “It’s about figuring out which tournament next season will benefit them the most and prepare them for state, because that’s what it’s all about. Everything else is just a warm-up to prepare you for the two days at state.”
And as Bonney Lake figures out the next course of action for this team, there is one future goal that every wrestler agrees on.
“We want to go back and win it again. That’s already our goal for next year,” Kaylor said. “We want to keep this up, and when we’re gone, we want the program to still be the best in the state. I have confidence that it will happen. This is the legacy we want.”