With back-to-back pins, the Panthers took an early lead against Wesco 4A North rival, and defending 4A state champion, Lake Stevens.
Then the Vikings took control. Lake Stevens won eight consecutive bouts — from 106 pounds to the 152-pound battle — to pull away from the Panthers 41-15 and win the 4A North title Tuesday night at Snohomish High School.
"I feel like we were in it," said Snohomish head coach Rob Zabel. "They rattled off a number of wins in a row. But those wins, there were a number of them that were three- and two-point matches where we were in it right until the end."
Gino Loera started the Vikings' run in the 106-pound weight class with a 7-3 decision over Dillan Meyer. Ty Headland, Michael Soler, Alex Rodorigo, Jake Douglas and Zach Cunningham — who wrestled up from his usual 138-pound weight class — followed with victories by decision.
Noah Cuzzetto (138 pounds) and Danny Sagiao (152) pinned their opponents to help seal the win.
"Those are some pretty good guys we're throwing out there," Lake Stevens head coach Brent Barnes said. "We throwing out a (defending) state champion in Soler. You'd like to get pins out of some of those weight classes. Snohomish did a really good job fighting in those weight classes. Especially at 120. Wyatt Butler did a great job keeping the match tight for them."
After pins by Tristan Baus and Alex Fairhurst at 220 and 285 pounds, respectively, Snohomish had a 15-9 lead.
But Lake Stevens won eight of the final nine bouts, with the Panthers' Sawyer Sahlinger getting a 10-4 decision over Bhodi Scott in the final match of the night.
"All 14 kids battled," Zabel said. "Our lineup's a little beat up right now but that's our lineup. Those are our best 14 kids. We go to battle with them and I was really, really proud of the effort they gave me. The outcome wasn't always what we wanted in the matches but the effort's there."
Snohomish and Lake Stevens have developed a strong rivalry on the mat of late. The Panthers are the last league team to beat Lake Stevens, with a victory in 2007 and a win in the end-of-the-year league meet two seasons ago.
"I look forward to wrestling them," Zabel said. "Lake Stevens' guys I think it's a healthy rivalry in that I think there's a lot of mutual respect. ... Yeah, we beat them in a dual in 2007 and then we beat them two years ago at the league tournament and we're going to try like hell every time we wrestle them to beat them. That's just the way it goes. Rivalry? Maybe a little bit."
The Vikings, winners of five of the past seven state championships, pose a good test for Snohomish to see where it is at before the postseason begins next weekend.
"One of the greatest fears humans have is fear of the unknown. There's no more unknown," Zabel said. "The great thing about this for us is the buildup to this match and the idea that we don't see Lake all year and then, there's the Boogeyman! And you've seen him now. You don't have anything to be afraid of.
"We look at it and say, OK we have some changes we can make to hopefully close the gap with them."
Barnes likes the challenge from Snohomish as well, with the Panthers always giving it their best and eager to prevail against the Vikings.
"They always wrestle us really well," Barnes said. "Especially when we come over here. Rob always has those kids ready and they compete hard. This was our biggest league match of the year definitely. We knew this was going to be a hard match. It's always a big one. They're the last ones to beat us in league so that's always lingering."
The Lake Stevens coach was hoping for a few more pins from his team, but said each wrestling meet is a learning experience that the Vikings can use to get better.
"Just something to build off of. Whether it's good or bad, you're always going to take something from a match," Barnes said. "And it was a good match. We've just got to get our better kids to step up and put a few more bonus points on the board."
At Snohomish H.S.
170—Logan Johnson (LS) pinned Mark Currier, 2:15; 182—Garrett Stich (S) dec. Mason Beaver, 4-0; 195—Cody Vigoren (LS) dec. Justin Kearney, 7-1; 220—Tristan Baus (S) pinned Michael Oberholtzer, 1:13; 285—Alex Fairhurst (S) pinned Dylan Hutchinson, 0:26; 106—Gino Loera (LS) dec. Dillan Meyer, 7-3; 113—Ty Headland (LS) dec. Brad Hodkinson, 8-4; 120—Michael Soler (LS) dec. Wyatt Butler, 5-1; 126—Alex Rodorigo (LS) dec. Conner Snow, 10-0; 132—Jake Douglas (LS) dec. Keaton Mills, 12-2; 138—Noah Cuzzetto (LS) pinned Austin Goodwin, 1:40; 145—Zach Cunningham (LS) dec. Riley Todd, 7-3; 152—Danny Sagiao (LS) pinned Colten Sturlaugson, 1:39; 160—Sawyer Sahlinger (S) dec. Bhodi Scott, 10-4.
Records—Lake Stevens 4-0 league, 8-2 overall. Snohomish 2-1, 9-2.
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