TACOMA — After Day 1 of the 2016 Mat Classic, two Wesco schools have put themselves in positions to bring home a team championship.
Arlington leads the 3A standings with 80 points, 20 points clear of their nearest challenger and fellow Wesco school Edmonds-Woodway. Perennial state championship contender Lake Stevens also has a lead in the 4A classification with 58 points, five points ahead of Moses Lake.
Arlington head coach Rick Iversen and Lake Stevens head coach Brent Barnes both felt good about the positions their teams put themselves in after the first day of competition.
“So far it’s a good beginning,” Iversen said. “The semis are going to tell so much — and they always do. When a kid enters the semis, you score two advancement points and nine placement points. That’s 11 points. No opportunity like that today has happened. Tomorrow morning, we’re very fortunate that we have six (wrestlers) in the semis and a chance to do some serious scoring.”
The Vikings’ lead isn’t as comfortable as the one enjoyed by the Eagles, but Barnes feels good about his team’s chances at winning another team championship after getting five of his eight wrestlers into the semifinals.
“I was hoping for five and I didn’t know which combination of five we would get, but that was kind of the goal,” Barnes said. “We came with eight, it would be nice to have seven alive tomorrow. I thought if we could place seven then we would have a shot at winning it.”
Arlington has seven wrestlers in the semifinals led by the Crew brothers Azariah and Ruben at 160 and 170 pounds respectively. Azariah Crew, a senior who is ranked No. 1 in his weight class by Washington Wrestling Report, scored two pins to get into the semifinals where he will face Shadle Park’s Eddie Montiel, who is ranked eighth.
Edmonds-Woodway senior Mason McDaniel also advanced the semifinals with two victories on Friday. McDaniel, who is ranked second, will face Azariah Crew in an all-Wesco championship should both win their semifinal matches Saturday morning.
Ruben Crew’s road to the semis was met with more resistance. The top-ranked senior won his first match 14-6, but had to come from behind to beat Auburn’s Cole Washburn, who is ranked fifth, 5-4 to advance to Saturday’s semifinal. Ruben trailed 2-0 entering the final period before earning one point for an escape and a two-point takedown to take a 3-2 lead. He trailed again after Washburn scored a two-point reversal with 30 seconds to go in the match, but was able to register a reversal of his own seconds later to make the score 5-4 and hung on in the final moments.
“Ruben did the same thing in this tournament last year,” Iversen said. “He took second here last year and in the semifinal match Ruben was down by three points with not a lot of time left and Ben Mendro, my assistant coach, turned to me and said, ‘you know, I think he’s going to win this thing. He’s just that kind of kid.’ I said, ‘I do, too.’ He escaped took the kid down and won the match. Ruben did that again today. Of course you have to have the talent, the skill and the experience to do that, but you have to have the heart and that’s what he brought to the match.”
The Crew brothers are joined by five teammates in the semifinals — senior Boston Jones at 126 pounds, sophomore Gavin Rork at 132 pounds, senior Jeremy Nygard at 138 pounds, junior Cooper McAuslan at 145 pounds and junior Colton Ferro at 195 pounds.
“I thought Gavin Rork’s match was extraordinary, but then that’s kind of the season he’s had too,” Iversen said. “Jeremy Nygard wrestled an exciting match and probably the most exciting wrestler we have because he’s such a thrower is Cooper McAuslan at 145 pounds. He must have thrown (semifinal opponent Alec Manke of Shelton) to his back four or five times. … Everybody likes to watch that.”
Lake Stevens advanced five wrestlers to semifinals led by senior Michael Soler, who is seeking to do something that has been done just 11 times before at the Mat Classic — become a four-time state champion.
Soler won as a freshman at 106 pounds, a sophomore at 113 pound and a junior at 132 pounds. This year he jumped all the way to 170 pounds, but the dramatic change in weight classes hasn’t stopped him. He’s ranked No. 1 in the state and advanced to the semifinals with two victories on Friday.
“He looks great right now,” Barnes said. “He’s relaxed, he’s wrestling well and he’s smart. I think he’s going to have a great shot at it.”
Soler is joined by sophomore Nathan Scilley at 113 pounds, senior Gino Loera at 120 pounds, senior Jake Douglas at 138 pounds and senior Trysten Perales at 145 pounds as the team’s representatives in the semifinals.
Having Arlington and Edmonds-Woodway leading the 3A and Lake Stevens leading the 4A after Day 1 was a source of pride for Barnes.
“It’s a testament to our area and to the programs we have and the coaching staffs,” Barnes said. “It’s pretty cool.”