The boys wrestling team from Orting High School made a statement at home on Saturday that it is the team to beat — even while carrying the high expectations of winning.
And the person on that team that embodies those expectations most is Ben Gore, who is the top-ranked wrestler in Washington in the 152-pound weight class.
Gore, a senior, is preparing to make a run for his third state title at Mat Classic. But first, had to go up against Eatonville’s Lucas Lane for the championship in the 2A SPSL Sound Division tournament.
Early on, Gore asserted his dominance in getting Lane down to the mat quickly. Keeping him in a lock, Gore recorded the pin in 2 minutes, 51 seconds.
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“It feels good to win and to keep rolling towards state,” Gore said. “We knew that we only had a few more tournaments, so it feels good to get one of them out of the way.”
But it wasn’t just Gore earning points and prestige for the Cardinals — 12 of his teammates made it to the finals in their respective weight classes.
“It’s definitely a group effort,” Orting coach Jody Coleman said. “Even though wrestling is largely an individual sport, we really preach wrestle for your team, and they will be better.”
Two Cardinals that exemplified that were juniors Alex Cruz and Joey Alford, as they faced off against each other in the 126-pound championship.
“It’s hard (to wrestle against my teammate), but at the end of the day, it’s beneficial for us,” Cruz said. “It’s a challenge, but at the end of the day, we are both advancing and that’s all that matters.”
Cruz’s quickness on the mat got Alford in a bind, and that proved to be the deciding factor as Cruz got the pin in 1:51.
Cruz is a two-time defending state champion seeking his third in a row, as well as keeping alive the possibility of becoming a four-time state champion next year.
“I’m looking forward to state. This is just another step along the way,” he said.
Orting easily outscored the other competing schools with a total of 361.5 points on the day. Highline came in second with 208 points, and Steilacoom scored 191.5 for third place.
As dominant as Orting was in the tournament, several other big-name wrestlers earned their dues as well, including River Ridge’s Blayne Haderman.
Haderman, who is the top-ranked wrestler in the 220-pound weight class, instantly took control of the match against the Cardinals’ Evan Barger. Keeping Barger close to the ground and creating space for points, Haderman won the match, 7-4.
The regional round for 2A wrestling will be held at Fife High School on Feb. 11 starting at 10 a.m.