So who is this unflappable and seemingly indestructible Sam Peterson?
He is a teenager at Bonney Lake High School who goes back and forth between varsity and junior varsity as an undersized offensive lineman in football.
He is somebody who constantly has his nose in a textbook — he is the WIAA’s academic state champion for wrestling at 220 pounds with a 3.75 grade point average.
Not surprisingly, he is a member of the school’s honor society.
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But under the bright lights of the Tacoma Dome at Mat Classic XXIX, with his school’s first team championship hanging in the balance, Peterson was the baddest mat warrior in the building Saturday night.
He got the job done.
The soft-spoken junior edged O’Dea ninth-grader Dustin Camacho, 6-4, to win the 220 titleand clinch the Class 3A team championship for the Panthers as well.
With teammates, students and parents chanting his name, he shrugged off a late stall warning to collect the necessary four team points to give Bonney Lake a winning total of 137 points — just ahead of Kelso (134).
The Panthers were not the only locals to capture team titles. Tahoma emerged from a dogfight with Curtis to win its first 4A crown since 2012. And Yelm held off top-ranked Federal Way for its first girls title.
But all eyes turned to the 4A mat late Saturday night.
To keep Kelso alive, senior Ricky Victoriano had to win his match for fifth place — and did with a 3-1 decision over Prairie’s Bryan Person to give the Hilanders a 134-133 lead.
In years past, that match would have been contested hours earlier. But this year, it was held right before the 3A finals — and right in front of Peterson as he paced the championship mat.
“I was watching a little bit, but I did not think too much about it,” Peterson said. “My coaches said, ‘Worry about yours.’ ”
He did, getting a takedown in the final seconds of the first period to grab a 3-2 lead. And 14 seconds into the next period, he got another one. That was the margin needed for victory.
On Thursday, Bonney Lake coach Dan Pitsch held a one-on-one meeting with Peterson. Pitsch, a former Spanaway Lake and Oregon State standout, told his wrestler that he’d shine in a big moment this weekend.
This moment — this win — couldn’t have been any bigger.
“When you really want it, you go for it,” Peterson said. “I went for it. I won.
“This wasn’t just for me. It’s for everybody.”
Meanwhile in 4A, the Bears’ numbers and experience were too much for the Vikings to overcome.
And Tahoma solidified its victory with wins by Nolan Martinez, a former Class 5A champion in Colorado, at 120 and Kione Gill at 195 to give the Bears 158 points. Curtis was second with 145.
“This new format made it feel like it was truly a team championship,” Tahoma coach Chris Feist said. “We watched that (4A) team score go up, and go down.”
Gill came to Tahoma from Enumclaw, where he was a state runner-up last year. He was ecstatic just to be a key contributor.
“It means the world to me, it really does,” said Gill, who stopped Kennedy Catholic’s Bowen McConville by fall in 1 minute, 37 seconds. “I can’t explain it any other way, but this is my family right here.”
All the Eagles needed to do to tie Yelm with 97 points for the girls crown was get a pin victory by Mariah Stewart in the 235 finals. But Stewart lost by fall to Washougal’s Abby Lees.
State history was made Saturday night as well.
Lakeside of Nine Mile Falls standout Dalton Young became the first undefeated four-time state champion after he pinned Deer Park’s Brent Hodgson in 2:21 in the Class 1A 138 finals.
Young, who has kept a list of the state’s four-time champions tacked on his bedroom ceiling at home, finished his career at 170-0.
“It is a big deal,” Young said. “I really respect those guys (past four-time champions) and everything they’ve done. It is something really cool to be in the club, I guess.”
Also, North Central’s Clai Quintanilla became a four-time state champion in 3A. He beat Kelso’s Jordan Miller, 16-5, in the 132 title match.
All seven of The News Tribune’s “Untouchables” won state titles, including Bonney Lake’s Brandon Kaylor, who edged Mount Spokane’s Blake Haney, 3-2, in a rematch of the 106 finals a year ago.
“My dad was telling me, ‘It is easy to get to the top. It’s hard to stay there,’ ” Kaylor said.
Toppenish (157 points) toppled Orting to repeat as 2A champion. Granger (190 points) survived a push by Colville to win 1A. And Tonasket won its first 2B/1B title in longtime coach Dave Mitchell’s 39 seasons.