Mason Eaglin of South Kitsap and Hunter Cruz of Moses Lake have spent years as friends, despite being divided by over 200 miles and a mountain range.
At the 41st Annual Matman Classic at Central Kitsap High, that friendship was put aside as Cruz, who’s the No. 1-ranked 160-pound wrestler in all classifications, faced his longtime friend Eaglin, No. 1 ranked 170-pound in all classifications, in the 170 finals Saturday night.
“We were pretty good friends from us training together, so I knew it was going to be a pretty good match,” said Eaglin, the Duke University commit.
Fortune favored Eaglin on Saturday as the South Kitsap senior outlasted Cruz, the defending 4A 152-pound state champion, to pick up a 4-3 decision.
“It’s usually him (who wins) because he’s bigger than I am,” Eaglin said. “But I just wanted to bring my best and show everyone what I can do.”
Eaglin was the 4A state runner-up after falling in the 138-pound championship against Puyallup’s Josh Franich last year.
But Eaglin’s victory on Saturday gave South Kitsap a chance to claim the team title at the Matman Classic as the Wolves entered the finals in third behind Lake Stevens and defending 4A state champion Tahoma.
Lake Stevens claimed the team title with a final score of 167.5, one point ahead of Tahoma (166.5) after South Kitsap’s (161.5) Jacob Laws defeated Tahoma’s Reid Carlton, 5-4 decision, in the tournament’s final match of the night.
“This is good this time of year … because I don’t know if a lot separated us,” South Kitsap coach Chad Nass said. “So when you’re in the mix with those two powerhouses, then you’re in good company.”
Kione Gill helped Tahoma start out the finals on the right foot after earning a pin in 1 minute, 46 seconds in the 220-pound finals when he swept the feet (and arm) out from under Chris Sparks of Graham-Kapowsin to set up the pin fall.
“It was just a block. I just stepped on his foot and tripped him,” said Gill, a defending 195-pound 4A state champion.
Even with all the positive individual results from a hungry Tahoma team, if Gill’s words can be spoken for his team as a whole, Tahoma won’t be satisfied until they recapture 4A state title for a second consecutive year.
“To be honest, winning is not my first priority. It’s all about the team right now,” Gill added. “I’m just doing whatever it takes to get those pins, to boost my team up – to boost their confidence up – and be ready for February.”
If the Matman Classic was any indication of what’s to come next month, then the state is in for one wild ride as Lake Stevens, Tahoma and South Kitsap look primed and ready for what’s to come at the Mat Classic inside the Tacoma Dome.
Quinton Southcott won’t say much when he’s off the mat, but once the Enumclaw senior hits the mat, nothing needs to be said. It’s all action for the Hornets’ top wrestler.
Southcott cruised to a 16-0 technical fall victory in the 145-pound finals after taking control of his match with Lake Steven’s Haydon Jones.
“I like to work during my matches. I don’t like to get a quick pin,” Southcott said, who ranks No. 3 in the 145-pound bracket in all classifications. “It’s just nice working and trying to get better, especially late in the season, you try to grind. You just keep working.”
“You want to have your dominant matches to know you’re doing good, but you also want those grinder matches because those are what’s going to happen in the postseason. It’s a huge deal when you get to state and that environment.”
Tahoma also got a Matman title from Austin Michalski, who defeated Auburn Riverside’s Yusef Nelson in the 120-pound championship with a 6-1 decision.
Steele Starrin (126) and Cameron Hanson (132), who pinned Graham-Kapowsin’s Lane Holland in 5:20.
South Kitsap’s Sebastian Robles won the 152-pound title with a pin in 1:08 over Gig Harbor’s John Bittinger in 1:08. Robles is the No. 3-ranked wrestler in all classifications behind Stanwood’s University of North Carolina-bound Mason Phillips and White River’s Nate Moore.
Auburn Riverside’s Jaden Cassel won the 113-pound title.
ORTING, BONNEY LAKE REPRESENT IN CALIFORNIA
Several wrestlers from Orting and Bonney Lake high schools made their mark in the Five Counties Tournament in California.
Bonney Lake’s Brandon Kayor, an Oregon State University signee, left the prestigious tournament with the 120-pound title thanks to a 4-3 victory over Eddie Flores of California’s Northview High School, who was a defending 5 Counties champion.
“It was crazy with good competition,” said Kaylor, a three-time defending WIAA state champion who is ranked No. 18 in the nation in the 120-pound weight class by FloWrestling.com. “I think I’m getting better after this tourney and I think I learned some good things.
“Washington is tough, but this had some good wrestlers, they are the real deal.”
Kaylor was accompanied by a few teammates that placed as well. In what started Friday with a Round of 64, freshman Yusief Lillie wrestled all the way to Saturday’s 106-pound title match, but lost a nailbiter, 1-0, against Richard Figueroa II of California’s Selma High School.
Figueroa is the No. 2-ranked 106-pound wrestler in the nation. Lillie is ranked No. 9.
Bonney Lake’s Brenden Chaowanapibool came in sixth in the 113-pound class, Cody Coffey took fifth at 160 and Sam Peterson was sixth in 220.
Another standout performance came from the Orting’s Alex Cruz, as the University of Virginia signee took second in the 138-pound weight class against the No. 4-ranked 138-pound wrestler in the country, Rancho Bernardo, California’s Jaden Abas.
Abas won it, 8-3.
“The match didn't go the way I wanted it to but I placed and that’s good,” said Cruz, a defending three-time state champion who was ranked as the No. 10 132-pound wrestler in the country. “I knew I was going to battle in the match still I got good experience. For the Mat Classic, it shows that I can hang with the best.”
Now Bonney Lake and Orting head back to Washington and 3A Pierce County League play with postseason wrestling less than a month away.
“I think that it's good to change pace every once in awhile to get out of the state,” Orting coach Jody Coleman said. “We go to the same tournaments with all the same teams but being here is good because they just go out and wrestle and they did their job.”
Coleman should be happy as four of the five wrestlers he brought placed; led by Cruz, Darius Gilchrist coming in fifth in the 182-pound class, Chrys Cenkush coming in sixth in the 120-pound class and Jacob Flores coming in eighth in the 126-pound class.
Staff writer Jordan Whitford contributed to this report
41st Annual Matman Classic
Team scores: Lake Stevens 167.5, Tahoma 166.5, South Kitsap 163.5, Mt. Spokane 125.5, Moses Lake 107.
106: Jake Bennett (LS) d. Xavier Eaglin (SK), 6-0
113: Jaden Cassel (Auburn Riverside) tf. Jarret Sharp, 16-1
120: Austin Michalski (Tah.) d. Yusef Nelson (AR) 6-1
126: Steele Starrin (Tah) d. Clayton Brush (LS), 7-1
132: Cameron Hanson (Tah) p. Lane Holland (Graham-Kapowsin), 5:20
138: Jacob Laws (SK) d. Reid Carlton (Tah), 5-4
145: Quinton Southcott (Enumclaw) tf. Hayden Jones (LS), 16-0
152: Sebastian Robles (SK) p. John Bittinger (Gig Harbor), 1:08
160: Nathin Marin (SK) d. Davonn Keyes (SK), forfeit
170: Mason Eaglin (SK) d. Hunter Cruz (ML), 4-3
182: Beau Mauseth (ML) d. Sam Onishchenko (AR), 7-5
195: Malachai Lawrence (LS) p. Mason Miethe (MS), 1:00
220: Kione Gill (Tah) p. Chris Sparks (GK), 1:46
285: Austin Rewoldt (Enum) p. Connor White-Shrum (GK), 2:46