Bragging rights up for grabs

Online message boards are lighting up with speculation and predictions.

Die-hard wrestling fans and newcomers alike are buzzing.

The highly anticipated showdown is almost here.

Heaps of hype surround this Friday’s spotlight-worthy wrestling match between the Sedro-Woolley Cubs and the Lake Stevens Vikings. The non-conference dual meet, set to begin at 7 p.m. in the Lake Stevens High School gym, matches arguably the state’s two most dominant programs.

Michael V. Martina / The Herald

Lake Stevens junior Kelly Kubec (above) is a wrestler to watch in Friday’s meet against Sedro-Woolley, the defending Class 3A state champions. Kubec, as well as the Cubs’ Derek Crouter (below) are won individual titles last season at 112 and 103 pounds, respectively.

Sedro-Woolley of the Northwest League has won four straight Class 3A state championships and seven state titles since 1976. Lake Stevens of the Western Conference North Division snared 3A state titles in 1990, 2000 and 2001, a 4A crown in 2004 and was the 4A runner-up last season. Between them, the teams boast four 2005 individual state champs.

“It’s gonna be loud and it’s gonna be fun,” said Ty Human, a Lake Stevens alum. “And I’m not even gonna be wrestling.”

Human, who in 2003 won a state title for Lake Stevens at 135 pounds, has enjoyed a unique vantage point during the pre-meet buildup. As an employee of the Everett-based Wilder Construction Company, Human works alongside several Lake Stevens grads and a handful of S-W supporters. The looming wrestling clash generated quite a flurry of discussion at work, Human said. Everyone, it seems, has an opinion about which powerhouse program will prevail.

“This is gonna be a fun night,” Lake Stevens coach Brent Barnes said, “simply because it’s gonna showcase some really good kids and it will be fun for the whole community to get together. … We’re just gonna go out there and try to give them a good show.”

The meet isn’t short on headliners. Lake Stevens standouts include Kelly Kubec, the 112-pound Class 4A champ last season who now competes at 130; Jon Wilbourne, the runner-up at 189; Billy Moehrle (eighth at 152 in 2004), and Kai VanLueven, a state qualifier at 140. S-W counters with a trio of 2005 3A state champs – Derek Crouter (won at 103, now at 112), Patrick O’Neil (135) and Michael Lomsdalen (won at 140, now at 145) – and several talented state placers and newcomers.

“They are absolutely loaded … and they have good, young kids who just step in (and perform),” Barnes said of S-W, which won the 16-team Skagit Invite on Saturday.

Friday’s meet marks S-W’s first dual meet against Lake Stevens since the 1999-2000 season. According to Barnes and S-W coach Jay Breckenridge, Lake Stevens won the most recent clash by a single point.

Remarkable success and geography aren’t the only connections between S-W and Lake Stevens. During the summer, several Cubs make the 45-mile drive south a few times each week to hone their skills in the Lake Stevens Wrestling Club. The interaction has spawned respect and familiarity among the grapplers.

“We get along pretty good. It’s kind of a friendly rivalry because they’re so close to us and they’re so dominant they’re kind of in the same position as us,” Kubec of Lake Stevens said. “We’re two powerhouses going against each other.”

So who’s going to win? It largely depends on how the coaches juggle their potent lineups. Barnes might bump Kubec up to 135 pounds to face O’Neil in what would be a must-see battle. Other potential highlight bouts include VanLueven versus Lomsdalen at 140, and the 152-pound matchup of Moehrle against Patrick Janicki, who placed sixth last season at the Class 3A state meet.

“It’s been a real good match any time that (Lake Stevens and Sedro-Woolley) have hooked up,” said Barnes, who expects a massive crowd to pack the Lake Stevens gym.

Expect more of the same Friday, when two colossal squads mix it up in a clash that has had wrestling fans drooling for months.

“Everybody in the whole west side of the state is excited,” Breckenridge said.

“Since the beginning of high school wrestling in the state of Washington, (Sedro-Woolley has) been a powerhouse,” Barnes said. “There’s a little air about them that they have tough, hard-nosed kids.

“We haven’t been around as long, but over the last 18, 19 years we’ve been pushing pretty hard to develop that rich history. I think we’re getting there.”

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