It will forever be known as the “Slam at K-M.”
And it netted Kent-Meridian High School wrestling standout Emmanuel Daigbe a certain level of revenge.
Last season, Union High School’s Alex Berfanger was king of the 170-pound weight class. He convincingly handled Daigbe, 11-5, in the Mat Classic 26 championship final to win the state title.
Daigbe waited nearly a year for a rematch — and got it Saturday in his home gymnasium at the Class 4A Region 3 wrestling tournament.
What transpired in the 182-pound final is stuff of which legends are made. Not once, but twice Daigbe lifted the defending state champion Berfanger over his shoulder, and stuffed him on the mat.
The final time, it was for good. Daigbe pinned Berfanger in 4 minutes, 18 seconds as the highlight moment of a thrilling series of finals.
In all, four of the championship matches —all in the upper weights — were decided by fall. And five other matches were decided by two points or fewer.
With three regional champions — Nick Whitehead at 120, Justin Sipila at 126 and Adam Hokenson at 195 — and five wrestlers total advancing to next week’s Mat Classic 27 at the Tacoma Dome, Tahoma won its seventh consecutive regional title Saturday.
But will the Bears bring enough to seriously challenge defending 4A champion Lake Stevens, or favorite Moses Lake? Tahoma coach Chris Feist isn’t sure.
“Especially this year, it is a numbers game,” Feist said. “Any of those teams that put double-digit (participants) in will be real hard for anyone to beat.”
What might be tough to beat — or duplicate — is what Daigbe accomplished in dramatic fashion in winning a regional title.
In the first period, he got ahold of Berfanger’s leg, picked him up and slammed him to grab an 4-0 lead.
Berfanger was able to slow down the action for the next two periods — until the 1:15 mark of the third round.
And almost out of nowhere, Daigbe got Berfanger again. This time he kept the Union standout suspended over his shoulder a little longer, and sent Berfanger crashing to his back.
The home crowd went nuts. And seconds later, the referee counted Berfanger out.
“I knew I was going to pick him up and slam him down,” said Daigbe, who is now 28-0. “It feels good. We are both strong. We are both fast. It was who wanted it more — and I wanted it more.”
In obvious shock, Berfanger gave full credit to the Royals’ junior.
“He was better prepared. He was better mentally prepared. And he might have been in better shape,” Berfanger said.
“I think we are going to see each other next week.”
Daigbe’s fireworks set off a series of dominant victories, including at pin by Beamer’s Mitchell Owens at 170 (in 1:07 over Union’s Javier Martinez) and a 17-2 victory by Kentlake’s Josh Beckler over Union’s Michael Snediker.
For Owens, he is an adopted son at Kent-Meridian. His father, Todd, is the longtime Royals’ wrestling coach.
And the Beamer teenager certainly seems to be rounding into form after missing 18 months of wrestling with multiple injuries.
“I am getting close to 100 (percent),” Owens said. “Not there yet. I do believe I will be fine.”
As for Beckler, what a difference a week makes. As a top seed at last week’s SPSL North subregionals at Kent-Meridian, he was upset by Kentwood’s Blake Capperauld in the semifinals, 7-5.
This week as a lower seed, he twice put Union’s Snediker — 4A’s top-ranked wrestler at 160 — on his back in the finals on the way to a near-fall decision.
“Last week, it put in perspective that you are never as good as you think you are,” Beckler said. “And (Snediker) was ranked No. 1 in state, and I just proved again names mean nothing in this sport.”
Despite getting shut out in the finals, Union will send a region-best seven wrestlers to Mat Classic.