TACOMA — Stanwood’s Mason Phillips and Lake Stevens’ Malachi Lawrence each won state championships in dominant — but markedly different — ways Saturday to close Mat Classic XXX at the Tacoma Dome.
It was Phillips’ third crown in as many years, and the victory, a 23-8 technical fall over Redmond’s Jeremy Hernandez, gave the North Carolina-bound standout a career record of 85-0.
Phillips took Hernandez down at will, allowed him to escape, and took him down again. He repeated that refrain in virtually every match he wrestled for the Spartans in his senior season, scoring two points and allowing his opponent one, until a 15-point margin resulted in a technical fall.
Lawrence won his second consecutive crown, and extended Lake Stevens’ remarkable streak of consecutive seasons with an individual state champion to 22, in a 7-4 decision over Mariner’s Levi Weaver in an all Wesco 4A final.
To the casual fan, a 7-4 final score in a match which Lawrence never led by more than four points might not be clearly dominant.
But the hulking Lawrence was always in control, pushing his hands heavily on Weaver’s head, and subtly exerting authority throughout the match.
The aesthetics were polar opposites — Phillips’ dominance was overt, Lawrence’s nuanced — but in both championship bouts, the outcome was never in doubt.
Both wrestlers put caps on superlative high school careers Saturday, and those who watched them regularly will remember the different ways they achieved similar results.
Phillips is a showman, and admitted after his final that he occasionally lengthened matches on purpose this season so he could enjoy himself on the mat for a few more minutes.
“I’ve had a lot of matches this season where I could have pinned kids in 20 or 30 seconds, but I don’t want to walk out there and walk back off that quick,” he said. “I like to wrestle, and I have fans who have come out to support me and I want to give them more than just 30 seconds.”
Stanwood coach Ray Mather said Phillips walks the line between exuberance and arrogance.
“Has he given up points because of stuff like that? Yes. Have I ever had to put him in line about stuff like that? No,” he said of Phillips. “I’ve never seen him show a kid up, but I have seen him light a kid up that wanted to take the competition to a different level.”
Part of what makes Lawrence so special how he was able to adapt his style to different opponents and situations and still finish his senior year 29-0.
In his first three bouts this weekend, none of Lawrence’s opponents could last till the end of the first period before succumbing via pinfall, and 26 of his 29 wins this season ended with his opponent flat on his back.
Blessed with a naturally thick physique that he has augmented with hours in the weight room, Lawrence mauled his foes, grabbing onto them with strong, heavy hands and not letting go.
That had to change when he met Weaver, a friend and occasional training partner, in Saturday’s final.
“Levi’s a tough kid, and he’s hard to hold down, so I knew I was going to have to win with escapes and go-behinds,” Lawrence said. “I think I wrestled a dominant match. I was the dominant wrestler the whole time and I felt like I was in control.”
Lake Stevens coach Brent Barnes said Lawrence rarely wrestled opponents who were as similar to him in stature and style as Weaver, but agreed with his wrestler’s assessment of who controlled the proceedings.
“It’s tough to get to Weaver’s legs because he’s so low to the ground,” Barnes said. “Malachi put a lot of pressure on the hands, and working the head like he does creates some tough situations for the other guy and forces people into bad shots.”
Phillips will continue his wrestling career in Chapel Hill next season for the Tar Heels, and has grand plans to conquer the wrestling world, and show everyone that a kid from Washington can hold his own in the sport’s spotlight.
Lawrence, after his win Saturday, ceremonially left his wrestling shoes on the mat, signifying that his competitive career is over.
One’s wrestling race is just beginning, and one has reached the finish line, but the final matches Mason Phillips and Malachi Lawrence wrestled in their prep careers could serve as case studies in how dominant they each were in their lengthy runs among the best of their contemporaries.