By Jon Saperstein Herald Writer
SNOHOMISH — During the first bout of Saturday’s championship round of the 4A Region 1 wrestling tournament, Lake Stevens wrestling coach Brent Barnes kicked back and relaxed, sitting in the coach’s corner of the center mat of three covering the gym floor at Snohomish High School.
Barnes got to pick which coach’s corner he sat in for this one because the Vikings placed both wrestlers in the 106-pound final. Not only that but Lake Stevens already had amassed enough points to win the team crown — the Vikings’ 239.5 points entering the finals was more than second-place Yelm (182.5) finished with at the end of the night.
The Vikings (284.5) used seven individual championships to put distance between themselves and Yelm, which moved up from 3A a year ago, and league-rival Snohomish (117 points) in third place.
The seven champs came from nine finalists, including freshman AJ Crew, who lost to teammate and classmate Michael Soler 6-1 in the lightweight bout.
Barnes, whose Vikings have won four of the past six 4A state team titles, emphasized the value of earning No. 1 seeds heading into the Mat Classic XXV next Friday and Saturday at the Tacoma Dome. Fourteen Vikings finished in the top four at Saturday’s region meet and will wrestle at state next week.
“You want to come out of here with No. 1s going into next week because No. 1s wrestle fours and that’s huge,” Barnes said. “We took care of our business this weekend.”
It was a far cry from a year ago when Lake Stevens finished a disappointing — by Vikings standards — fifth place in the state and lost to Snohomish in the district tournament. Barnes joked that the difference was, “Our kids made weight,” referencing two key wrestlers not qualifying to participate in regionals last year. He attributed this year’s success to the balance between senior leadership and upstart freshman.
“We have this group of four freshman that have qualified for state,” Barnes said. “That’s incredible with two champions.
“You don’t expect freshman to have that big of an impact.”
Michael Soler will be one of the several local favorites to make the finals next week after just losing twice this year, both to out-of-state opponents. He’s excited about the chance to be atop the podium again, but more so about the team crown. He wants to face Crew in the final again.
“It’d be awesome,” said Soler, whose older brother Eric won the 145-pound crown and will be going for back-to-back individual titles in Tacoma. “It’d help the team out a lot. That’s our real goal, the team title.”
Heavyweight Brandon Johnson bookended the Viking parade, capturing his second district crown with a 5-3 decision.
Wrestlers from Wesco collected the first seven weight classes Saturday night, including defending state champ Noah Cuzzetto of Edmonds-Woodway at 113 pounds.
Earlier in the day Cuzzetto was voted the region’s wrestler of the year. During the final he barely outlasted Yelm’s Darren Harris, bridging out of a potential pin in the final seconds to preserve a 6-5 decision.
“It definitely was an extra,” Cuzzetto said. “Having a little more pressure to win that one because, I mean, you can’t be the Wrestler of the Year and lose your finals match.”
Harris looked up at the scoreboard when the whistle blew and just shrugged.
“I think I was probably more nervous than they were,” E-W coach Brian Alfi said. “It was probably just another match for them.
“You would have thought there would be a little more emotion at the end for a regional championship, but neither one of these wrestlers’ goal was a regional championship. They both won state titles last year. They both understand that it doesn’t matter where they go in the bracket … as long as they are in.”
The Warriors got four athletes to advance and were the only other school with more than one individual champ. Nathan Vulliet won 132 pounds with a 4-0 decision over Arlington’s Bryce Thomas in the final.
Vulliet may have raised an eyebrow of some in the building, but not Alfi.
“He’s light years ahead of where he was last year, so if someone had not seen Nathan and all the work he put in during the summer, they’d be surprised to see him win a regional championship, but the kid is a phenomenal worker.”
Snohomish had a quiet third place overall finish, but a nice day for a team that went from double-digit seniors a year ago to five in 2013. The Panthers had no individual champs but three regional finalists and nine advanced to the state tournament.
Perhaps the most impressive Panther finalist was Tristan Baus, who battled Olympia’s two-time regional champ Tanner Hartsoch to an 8-6 defeat. Baus left the mat with a bloody lip, but his close loss only added to his great season.
“He’s been a real pleasant surprise for us all year as far as how much he’s grown as an athlete as a person,” Snohomish coach Rob Zabel said. “Good things are in store for that kid.”
Zabel was voted, for the second consecutive year, the district’s coach of the year.
“It’s flattering that your peers think of you in that manner,” he said. “But I’d trade it in a heartbeat for a couple more wins.”
A year ago Gino Obregon wrestled for Snohomish and had to wrestle opposite his dad Brooklyn, the Cascade coach, in a winner-to-state, loser-out bout during the regional.
After a summer move by the family to Everett, they were in the same corner for the 126-pound final this time and Gino quickly pinned Brian Rochester from Yelm. The happy Bruin junior jumped into his dad’s arms after the win.
“He makes me very proud,” the elder Obregon said. “Extremely proud.”
The second-year Bruin coach was also proud of his team, which made huge strides this season.
“We went from no participants last year and one alternate to four kids and 3 alternates,” Brooklyn said. “I’m extremely proud of the progress.”
At Snohomish H.S.
Team results: Lake Stevens 284.5, Yelm 182.5, Snohomish 117, South Kitsap 109, Edmonds-Woodway 90, Cascade 82, Olympia 62.5, Arlington 61.5, Bellarmine Prep 40, Mount Vernon 40, Lynnwood 32, Kamiak 21, Central Kitsap 20, Mariner 16, Jackson 6, Monroe 4, Gig Harbor 0, Stadium 0.
Championship results: 106—Michael Soler (LS) dec. AJ Crew (LS), 6-1; 113—Noah Cuzzetto (EW) dec. Darren Harris (Y), 6-5; 120—Jake Douglas (LS) dec. Warren Sprecher (CK) 6-2; 126—Gino Obregon (Cas) pinned Brian Rochester (Y), 0:59; 132—Nathan Vulliet (EW) dec. Bryce Thomas (Arl), 4-0; 138—Jesse Peterson (LS) maj. dec. Dillon Harris (Y), 14-3; 145—Eric Soler (LS) pinned Noah Johnson (Cas), 3:26; 152—Adam Gascoyne (SK) dec. Tanner Perry (Sno), 7-2; 160—Anthony Allred (Y) pinned Logan Johnson (LS), 2:39; 170—Cody Vigoren (LS) dec. Bryce Broome (SK), 7-1; 182—Taylor Ladenburg (BP) dec. Josh Newbill (O); 195—Tanner Hartsoch (O) dec. Tristan Baus (Sno), 8-6; 220—Shaq Reed (LS) pinned Alex Fairhurst (Sno), 3:15;285—Brandon Johnson (LS) dec. Damien Medeiros (SK), 5-3.
Other advancers (top 4 to state): 106—3. Jeremy Nygard (A), 4. Wyatt Butler (Sno); 113—3. Alex Rodorigo (LS), 4. Ruben Crew (LS); 120—3. Luis Reyna (MV), 4. Victor Munoz (Y); 126—3. Wyatt Bell (LS), 4. Wyatt Larsen (Cas); 132—3. Rafael Ibarra (MV), 4. Logan Pine (O); 138—3. Greg Eagle (Sno), 4. Conner Gonzales (A); 145—3. Andrew Villalobos (Mar), 4. Ben Delacy (SK); 152—3. Brandon Rochester (Y), 4. James Rodeman (Y); 160—3. Blake Sander (LS), 4. Hunter Lord (Lynn); 170—3. Marq Brown (EW), 4. Tyler Webley (K); 182—3. Michael Baird (SK), 4. Jake Ferro (A); 195—3. Jeffrey Leuth (Y), 4. Anthony Thees (LS); 220—3. Manuel Vazquez (Lynn), 4. Elliott Villars (BP); 285—3. George Johanson (EW), 4. Tristan Glaser (Y).