THE DECADE OF DOMINANCEVikings are state champs again BY ANDREW KUNAS | CONTRIBUTING WRITER It wasn’t even close in this year‘s Mat Classic. Almost a laugher to some.
The Lake Stevens Vikings rolled to its sixth state wrestling championship in ten years. After their state titles in 2007 and 2008 were close in the standings, the weekend saw the Vikings complete their decade long run with an exclamation point, racking up 169 tournament points, a new record for 4A schools.
The wins kept coming all weekend. A pin here, a decision there - they just kept coming. Even with as many as 24 matches in six classifications happening at once on the floor of the Tacoma Dome, many eyes turned to the 4A area to see Lake Stevens at work, and then stare at the team standings as the gap between Lake Stevens and whoever was second continued to widen.
Senior George King and junior Josh Heinzer repeated as state champions. Two others were runner-ups and five more finished third, fourth or fifth and one more wrestler took seventh. That made ten Vikings who stood on the podium at the end of the night and went home with medals.
As good as Western Conference North rival Snohomish was, the state’s No. 2 team finished second again to the top ranked Vikings, sitting a distant 66.5 points back from Lake Stevens. Snohomish had previously finished second behind Lake Stevens in the district and regional tournaments.
Lake Stevens won the 3A titles in 2000 and 2001 before moving up to 4A the next school year. The Vikings won their first 4A title in 2004 before their current three-year run. The first of Lake Stevens’ seven total wrestling championships came in 1990. All have come under the watchful eye of head coach Brent Barnes.
“This is one of the best teams we’ve had,” Barnes said, “and perhaps one of the best in 4A ever, getting the scoring record. This is a pretty nice group of guys we have, who have a lot of character.”
Perhaps one of the best 4A teams, he said? Statistically speaking, they became the best ever when they broke the scoring record of 159.5 by Moses Lake in 2000.
Heinzer, who won a state title at 103 lbs. a year ago, tore his way through the bracket at 112 lbs., pinning both of his opponents (one of them in 24 seconds) on Friday before scoring a 7-0 decision in his semi-final match Saturday morning, this despite feeling ill. In his championship match versus Cortney Nalley of Davis, Heinzer scored three takedowns and a reversal en route to a decisive 9-3 decision victory.
“I went out and worked hard all year,” Heinzer said after winning his second state title. “(Even after last year) it’s still exciting. I wasn’t feeling too good today, but that wasn’t going to stop me. I worked too hard to get here.”
One of the more satisfying moments of the weekend came courtesy of senior George King, who closed out his high school wrestling career with his second state title, also winning at 145 lbs. last year. Now wrestling at 152 lbs., King twice pinned opponents in less than a minute on Friday, and then took apart top seeded Daniel Nelson of Inglemoor in the semi-final contest with a 18-5 major decision.
King’s championship match was more closely contested as Sam Villegas of longtime wrestling power Moses Lake gave him a run for his money. King took an early 2-0 lead but Villegas made a reversal to tie at 2-2 after the first period. Starting in the down position to open the second period, King scored a point for an escape and then took down Villegas again for two more.
Villegas, who lost to King earlier this season in the Tri-State Tournament in Idaho, earned an escape point in the third period to make it 5-3 in King’s favor. King, however, kept Villegas from gaining any advantage again and held on for the 30th victory of his senior season against only one loss.
“I don’t know about sweeter, but it still feels good,” a jubilant King said when asked to compare this year’s state title to last year’s. In 2007 he finished fifth at 145 lbs. He also praised his teammates in general for breaking Moses Lake’s record for team points.
Seniors Jack Stilwell and Sean Anderson both made appearances in championship matches for the Vikings. Anderson, who finished eighth at 125 lbs. a year ago, was a surprise appearance in this year’s title match after he toughed out three close decisions, but he had to face the very talented Woodinville senior Kyle Komata in the final.
Anderson held his own well in the first period, as he and Komata wrestled to a scoreless draw. Komata though finally got the upper hand on Anderson and pinned him in the second period. Showing little disappointment in his face, Anderson still held his head high after the match, knowing his senior season was his best.
At 119 lbs. Stilwell, who had finishes of second and sixth the past two years, had to face Graham-Kapowsin stud Efrain Aguilar, who won a title at 112 lbs. last year. Stilwell avoided Anderson’s fate and went the distance with Aguilar, but Aguilar was too much and earned a 6-0 decision to win his second state title.
In the consolation bracket, very promising freshman Steven Walkley pinned Oak Harbor’s Colton Elliot in 3:02 to take fifth place at 130 lbs. Only a few of Washington’s best were able to beat Walkley this season, and two of them wrestled in the final, with Snohomish’s Sam Ottow beating Todd Beamer’s Trevor Mills. Mills had defeated Walkley in the second round on Friday and though he failed to beat Ottow, Walkley competed well against the Snohomish senior more than once.
Senior Zach Teuber finished his senior season with a grueling 9-7 overtime victory over Auburn’s Nick Conlan to secure fifth place at 285 lbs. The heavyweight’s literally threw each other around the mat in a physical contest that was tied 7-7 at the end of regulation. In the sudden death overtime, Teuber managed to grab a hold Conlan and take him down for the victory.
At 103 lbs. junior Ryan Rodorigo was in a low scoring contest with Heritage sophomore Austin Frazier, but Rodorigo won a 2-0 decision to earn third place finish for the Vikings. This improved greatly on his seventh place finish from a year ago.
At 145 lbs. Jacob Anderson fell in the third place contest to Woodinville’s Dylan Granard with a 7-0 decision and was credited with fourth place in his first Mat Classic appearance. Senior Jake Welch also got to wrestle for third place at 160 lbs., but fell 5-0 to Tyler Story of Graham-Kapowsin. His fourth place effort was Welch’s finest of his career also.
Senior Blake LeHuquet closed out his high school career on a high note also, as he earned an 8-5 decision victory over Michael Neiner of South Kitsap to earn seventh place in his first and only Mat Classic appearance.
Washington’s finest in girls wrestling were also in action. Junior JoMae Alewine was Lake Stevens’ only representative, but she represented well. Alewine pinned both of her opponents on Friday and in the first match of the day on Saturday she endured a physical match with Madeleine Wolczko of Vashon Island. Down 3-2 in the final period, Alewine mustered in a takedown with about 45 seconds left to get a 4-3 decision and secure a place in the 103 lbs. final.
Alewine faced Lauren Richardson of Bremerton in the final. Alewine held her own well for a time, getting a reversal to tie it at 2-2 in the middle of the second period. Richardson got control of the match as she was in the process of getting a reversal of her own on Alewine when Alewine lost her footing. That allowed Richardson to take her down and quickly pinned her.
Having wrestled and even beaten boys, this was Alewine’s only loss to another girl the whole season.
“One loss all year. She’s done very well,” Barnes said of the only female member on his team. “It’s not easy being the only girl on a team with a bunch of guys. It’s hard, but she fit right in.”
It was a satisfying weekend, and decade, in general for Lake Stevens. Barnes praised all who were part of the program over the years.
“Even going back to that first title in 1990, it’s been a lot of fun,” Barnes said. “This has really been built into something a lot of people can be proud of. The school, parents, community members, and of course the kids. Seven titles takes a lot of people. This wasn’t built overnight. There is a lot of work behind the scenes by a lot of unselfish people.”
With the 90’s being labeled the “Decade of Dominance” with the Vikings dominating WesCo and winning a state title, the 2000’s saw that label go to a new level with even more WesCo domination and an amazing six state titles. Next year, the Vikings will see if they can make 2010 the start of another “Decade of Dominance.”