LAKE STEVENS — It’s been a grueling three weeks for the Lake Stevens wrestling team, full of travel and elite competition against both in-state and out-of-state foes.
It wasn’t exactly happy trails for the Vikings, who lost close duals to Tahoma and White River on Dec. 6 and another at Moses Lake on Dec. 14.
Lake Stevens finished a disappointing 11th at Tri-State last weekend, though Jake Bennett’s individual title at 106 pounds did put something of a positive spin on the trip to Coeur d’Alene.
Thus it increased the motivation several times over for the No. 8 Vikings to finish the brutal stretch on a high note when No. 2 South Kitsap came to call Thursday in Lake Stevens’ home debut.
Coach Brent Barnes’ group took all it learned on its travels and turned in a vintage performance.
Thanks to key contributions from some unlikely sources, the Vikings stormed past the Wolves for a 43-26 win, and are back on the upswing heading into 2018.
Junior 170-pounder Isaac Gust and sophomore 220-pounder Wyatt Hall each posted heart-stopping victories during the charge, with the former serving as the turning point and the latter the exclamation point in the win.
“We just wanted to get the win,” said Hall, who electrified the crowd with a third-period pin of South Kitsap’s Ethan Fragoso to seal it for Lake Stevens. “We just got back from Tri-State, where we didn’t finish as high as we would have liked, and it was extra motivation for us tonight.”
Gust’s win three bouts earlier made it possible, as the junior tied his match against South Kitsap’s Nathan Marin with a two-point reversal in the waning seconds and got the Wolves’ senior on his back for just long enough to earn two near-fall points and a 9-7 win.
“That was certainly a turning point,” Barnes said. “Isaac is a really smart wrestler and he almost caught the kid in the same move just a little bit earlier, so I hoped he would go back to it.”
Marin’s loss rankled South Kitsap coach Chad Nass, who led the Wolves to a win in the HammerHead Invitational last weekend.
“He’s a senior that finished third at state last year. He’s got to know better, and he can’t let that happen,” Nass said. “Lake Stevens wrestled great tonight and had an intensity that we didn’t match. They really came after us.”
Gust’s win increased Lake Stevens’ lead to 31-16 in a match that started at 106 pounds, and has been the case often in the past few seasons, the Vikings had to hold on through the upper weights.
South Kitsap’s Mason Eaglin, ranked second in 4A and headed to Duke next season, beat Angelo Loera via technical fall at 182, and No. 5 Izaiah Davis decked Carson West in the first period to cut Lake Stevens’ lead to 31-26 heading into Hall’s bout at 220.
Fragoso took a 3-0 lead in the match, but the South Kitsap junior was tiring as the match wore on, and Hall waited him out.
“He came out fast, but I could see that he was sucking wind pretty bad by the end of the second period,” Hall said. “My coaches told me to pick neutral to start the third period and just work my stuff. He tried to head-and-arm me, and I just circled away, grabbed a leg and put him on the mat.”
The Vikings wrestled without reigning 170-pound 4A state champion Malachi Lawrence again Thursday. The senior hasn’t wrestled since early this month while recuperating from a hip impingement.
He expects to return to the Vikings’ lineup for their Wesco 4A opener against Cascade on Jan. 9.