The cliché “defense wins championships” is usually associated with team sports.
After winning every time he’s stepped on the mat in the state of Washington the last two seasons, Orting’s 285-pounder Hunter Mullins is finding that his opponents are trying to apply that concept to wrestling.
Mullins got a group of five Cardinal finalists off to a good start in the 39th annual Matman Classic at Central Kitsap High School on Saturday with a, 3-1, overtime victory against Moses Lake’s Chandler Fluaitt.
Mullins needed to force the issue throughout.
“I’ve started to notice a trend,” the defending Class 2A state champion said. “Everyone is wrestling defensively against me. Any time I get a shoot, they go straight out of bounds.”
Earlier Saturday, Moses Lake’s backup heavyweight Cole Deaver took a similar strategy in a semifinal loss to Mullins.
Mullins and Fluaitt traded escapes in the rounds each started in the down position, but the only other potential score in regulation came when Mullins tried a left leg takedown, but couldn’t keep Fluaitt in bounds. Fifteen seconds into overtime, the same move worked for the winning points.
“The kid wrestled Hunter really smart, backing up and staying on the edge,” said Orting coach Jody Coleman, whose team finished second overall with 163.5 points behind Moses Lake’s winning 176. “It’s the way I’d tell someone to wrestle Hunter.”
Mullins extended his season record to 28-1, the only blemish coming more than 2,000 miles from home during the Walsh Ironman tournament in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. He won a second championship in eight days, following the Gut Check Classic a week ago.
“I look at each tournament as a business meeting,” he said. “If I win, I made a good deal.”
According to Coleman, this year’s entire Orting squad is a motivated work force.
“They’re a rare breed,” he said. “I’ve never had a group work this hard. They’re looking really good for postseason.”
Good. And deep.
With usual 220-pounder Erik Jacobson out going through the concussion protocol, sophomore Evan Barger stepped up and recorded a second-round pin of Moses Lake’s Payton Castro. Chris Cenkush (113), Alex Cruz (120) and Ben Gore (145) claimed runner-up spots for the Cardinals.
Mason Eaglin of Graham-Kapowsin defeated Cruz while Chance Stolz of Peninsula was also a champion, blanking Jake Sander of Mt. Spokane, 5-0, at 195.
Two Enumclaw wrestlers, Jake Treece at 132 and Tanner Turnbow at 160, each finished second.