And try as he might, Mather was having a hard time coming up with a winning formula.
"I never thought we were going to win," he admitted later. With some new faces in his lineup, "I was trying to figure out every scenario (to win), and I couldn't figure out how we were going to do it. Because on paper we weren't supposed to win."
But in an evening of surprises -- and for Mather, they were mostly pleasant surprises -- Stanwood shrugged off an early deficit and closed with a flourish to defeat the host Tomahawks 47-29 on Thursday night.
Trailing 29-21 with five matches to go, the Spartans won all five bouts, including three with pins. Stanwood actually clinched the win with a technical fall in the next-to-last bout, and then tacked on a pin for good measure in the finale.
"That's the best we've wrestled all year," Mather said. "So I'm very happy."
The Christmas break is sometimes a troublesome interruption for wrestling coaches. Some kids miss workouts because of family trips and other plans. Other kids have trouble making weight because of holiday feasting. And by the time the season resumes, coaches are often unsure what to expect.
"Coming off Christmas break is always tough," Mather acknowledged. "But I was actually really impressed with what we did. It was a good team effort."
To no one's surprise, Stanwood's Zach Schut turned in the match's most dominating performance, needing just 34 seconds to get a pin at 160 pounds. Schut finished fifth at the Class 4A state tournament a year ago, and he is currently ranked third in Class 3A.
"That's typical of what we expect out of him," Mather said.
But what swung the match for the Spartans were some less likely victories. Stanwood's Carlos Vilchis had already been pinned twice this season by Marysville Pilchuck's Jory Cooper at 285 pounds, but this night it was Vilchis getting the first-period pin.
Likewise, Stanwood's Jacob Scott had been previously pinned by the Tomahawks' Ryan Daurie, but Scott ended up with a 2-0 decision.
"Those were both real big swing matches," said Tomahawks coach Craig Iversen. "If you have a close dual (match), that's usually what it's going to come down to. Each team is going to have their guns where they get their expected wins … but then it usually comes down to one or two (swing) matches."
The Spartans also got a big win at 120 pounds, where Nathan McCaughan wrestled his first varsity match of the season and pinned Marysville Pilchuck's Jacob Greene in the second period.
Despite the loss, "it was a great match," Iversen said. "We've battled with Stanwood over the years, and it's a fun dual for us. … We thought we'd be able to get this done tonight, but it just didn't happen.
"We took our lumps," he added, "but now we're going to come back and try to get them at districts."
Stanwood improved its season mark to a sparkling 8-0, but Mather insists his squad still has "lots of work to do. We've still got some growing to do with some techniques."
But for one special night, he said, "some of our kids really stepped up. And I'm very, very proud of their effort."
At Marysville Pilchuck H.S.
145--Anthony Moffitt (MP) pinned Tanner Peterson 3:13; 152--Killian Page (MP) tech. fall Dalton Gilman 16-0; 160--Zach Schut (S) pinned Hunter Hintze :34; 170--Drew Hatch (MP) pinned Anthony Ortega 1:02; 182--Keegan Noel (S) pinned Jake Merrick 3:42 2nd; 195--Garrett Arrona (S) dec. Ismael Perez 7-0; 220--Iggy Gabov (MP) pinned Austin Brandt 1:24; 285--Carlos Vilchis (S) pinned Jory Cooper 1:24; 106--Sam Foss (MP) won by forfeit; 112--Wes Weinert (S) pinned Jonathan Neumann 2:16; 120--Nathan McCaughan (S) pinned Jacob Greene 3:51; 126--Jacob Scott (S) dec. Ryan Daurie 2-0; 132--Kane Ayling (S) tech. fall Mark Mullen-Gaffney 15-0; 138--Nathaniel Zinkand (S) pinned Andrew Wolfe 1:51. Records--Stanwood 1-0 league, 8-0 overall. Marysville Pilchuck 0-1, 3-3.
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