VIKINGS ARE CHAMPS AGAIN!Wrestlers take down Mat Classic XX BY DAVE JEDLICKA | CONTRIBUTING WRITER The Lake Stevens High School wrestling team didn’t have a perfect regular season. For the first time in 19 years they didn’t top the WesCo District standings. But unlike the New England Patriots that were perfection during the season and fell at the end, the Vikings took the adversity and disappointment experienced at a certain point in the year and made the most of it. Over Feb. 15 and 16, the Vikings put on one of the most amazing displays of team success winning their second straight Washington State 4A Championship trophy at Mat Classic XX in the Tacoma Dome. Even with 11 of their 13 wrestlers placing in the top 8 and standing on the podium, it still took losses from two wrestlers to assure Lake Stevens of their victory.
The Vikings were in a heated battle in the team score with Graham-Kapowsin. Graham-Kapowsin, in only its third year of existence as a school managed to get nine wrestlers into the medal round, and with some higher placing could have beat out the Vikings if their last two wrestlers would have won in the finals. But fate was on the side of the Lake team as both went down in defeat insuring another championship for Head Coach Brent Barnes. The final team score was Vikings 145, Graham-Kapowsin 139.5. Rounding out the top five out of the 65 4A teams were Central Valley with 103, University (Spokane) and Snohomish tied at 93 points each.
The eleven placers that Lake Stevens had at the end of the tournament was a 4A record beating out the nine placers that the Vikings set last year. “That’s a result you may never see again”, said one of the tournament officials, “It’s an awesome accomplishment”. The Vikings were rewarded from the depth they had in a number of weight classes with JV wrestlers stepping up and wrestling big when the time was critical.
“I can’t believe this is happening”, said Heinzer moments after his win, “It’s like I’m living my dream”.
Freshman JV wrestler Ryan Rodorigo placed seventh at 103 lbs. earning valuable points for the Viking team score. At 112 pounds senior Zach Zweifel lost a tough battle in the semi-finals against Graham-Kapowsin’s Efrain Aguilar III to miss out on a second straight individual championship. He came back tough in the consolations and took the third place spot. Jack Stilwell, who finished second to Zweifel at 103 pounds last year ended up with a sixth place finish at 119 pounds this year. Junior Sean Anderson managed to work his way through a heavily talented 125-pound weight class finishing in eighth place, as did senior Brandon Austin at 130 lbs.
Josh Monson, one of the three Viking Co-Captains along with Zweifel and fellow senior Josh Eacrett, finally reached the top step on the podium in his senior year. After finishing fifth as both a sophomore and junior, Monson recovered from his season-long knee injury enough at just the right time. He was a ‘takedown machine’ throughout the tournament, frequently just letting his opponent back up after getting them down, just to take them down again. He put on a clinic against the best the state had to offer. The finals culminated in a rematch against Stefan St. Marie of Snohomish. St. Marie had beaten Monson at both the District and Regional tournaments. However each time they wrestled, Monson got stronger. This match wasn’t anywhere near as close as the previous two. Monson was able to take St. Marie down repeatedly winning by a score of 16-9.
Senior Alex Pellegrini finally achieved one of his dreams, placing at Mat Classic bringing home the sixth place medal at 135 pounds. At 140 lbs., the Vikings suffered one of their few sad stories. Senior Josh Eacrett, a staple to the Lake Stevens team, Co-Captain, and previous state placer had an off tournament and only managed to win one match. He didn’t make the podium as an individual, though most assuredly his quiet leadership provided a lot of the push towards the team reaching their goal.
Junior George King won the championship at 145 pounds, fulfilling the expectations of everyone who follows the team. King had a good showing last year with a fifth place finish, but came into his own this year mowing down the field and capturing a state title.
Probably the biggest surprise story of the tournament and season was junior Jake Welch who wrestled at 160 pounds. Welch grew increasingly and markedly better with each match and tournament as the year progressed. Not considered one of the favorites, Welch made the semi-finals and ended up finishing in 6th place at state. The Viking’s only success in the heavier weight classes came with an eighth place finish by junior Zach Teuber at 285 pounds. Teuber giving up a considerable amount of weight to most of his opponents managed to win a critical match to make the consolation medal finals insuring Lake Stevens of their state win. Also participating but not placing was BJ Alewine at 130 pounds who had a great post-season run up to the Tacoma Dome.
In the girl’s competition, sophomore JoMae Alewine brought home a fourth place finish and earning state honors as a two-time state placer in the girl’s tournament having also placed fourth last year. Senior Natasha Grow also brought home a medal finishing fourth at 130 lbs. The girls, with only two participants, still took 9th in the state out of 74 participating teams.
Lake Stevens should be proud and excited to be the home of the State Champion wrestlers coached by Head Coach Brent Barnes, and Andy Knutson, Dean Width, Dean Pakinas and Tyson Springer. Congratulations to the Vikings for two in a row.
Photographs from Mat Classic XX and the rest of the season can be found at www.jedicheetah.com.