Getting a grip on ‘The Bull’

For the wrestlers, coaches and fans of Arlington and Stanwood high schools, one meet each season is more important than the rest. The dual meet between the schools, dubbed the “Battle of the Bull,” decides which team will proudly display the trophy for the next year.

Tonight, Arlington (3-3 league, 5-4 overall) and Stanwood (1-5, 2-7) will meet in the Arlington High School gym to determine which school’s display case will house the trophy for the next year. Will the Eagles keep the trophy for the fourth year in a row? Or will it make the journey north to Stanwood?

“I think it’s going to be another good duel. A couple years ago it went down to a tiebreaker,” said Stanwood coach Ray Mather. “Rivalries are rivalries and someone might be favored but you never know when it comes down to this kind of competition.”

Although the two Wesco North schools have been rivals for years, the intensity escalated in the summer of 2000 when the former coaches decided the sport needed something similar to football’s Stilly Cup. They decided on the moniker “Battle of the Bull” and the bull-horned trophy was created.

Stanwood started strong, winning the first seven years but have yet to win since Mather took over as head coach.

“Everything goes in cycles,” said Mather. “When I took over, we were going through a different cycle and rebuilding. Arlington already went through their down times with their overall team and they have had good teams coming the last few years and have another good one this year. We’re trying to catch back up to being like we were (in the early years of the Battle).”

If Arlington hopes to keep the trophy for a fourth year, it may have to put in some extra effort. The Eagles graduated two state finalists last year and are working to rebuild their team this season.

“We’re looking to build a young team up and eventually get some kids to the state tournament,” said Arlington coach Shaun Williams. “That’s our hope but we’re just in the building phase (this year).”

The outcome of this year’s competition will most likely depend on which school prevails in the middle weight matches. Both programs boast a few strong wrestlers in the 130 to 160 weight classes, including Arlington’s Blake McPherson and Chris Berg and Stanwood’s team captain Joe Eidsness and freshman Jarred Studley.

Stanwood’s top wrestler, Brad Gee, is expected to return from injury and compete in the 189-match.

Seth Hendersen has also proved to be a strong athlete for Arlington this season.

“This whole season I’ve been wrestling (Hendersen) up a weight class,” said Williams. “He’s wrestling guys who are bigger than him but he keeps coming up with wins.”

Regardless of who the champion will be, the two wrestling programs hope for a solid crowd to come cheer for the teams. Last year’s event at Stanwood High School drew about 100 people, according to Williams, but he hopes to see more of the community at this year’s meet.

“I hope that we can pull in the spectators and create an atmosphere of competition and rivalry versus last year when we showed up to Stanwood and it was kind of dead,” said Williams. “I just hope that we can pull it all together and we can put something good on for them.”

Stanwood’s Mather agrees: “It’s always more exciting in a dual situation to have big crowds on both sides. (The Battle of the Bull) is an exciting match between the two schools, just like the Stilly Cup.”

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