LAKE STEVENS — Lake Stevens 285-pound senior Wyatt Hall, like the Vikings’ Hall-of-Fame wrestling coach Brent Barnes, has a keen interest in the mental side of athletics.
A four-year starter at center for the Lake Stevens football team, Hall is equally valuable to the Vikings on the wrestling mat, as he proved Saturday.
Hall emerged as the only one of Lake Stevens’ five finalists to leave with a championship at the Viking Invite at Cavalero Mid-High School, the team’s last big tournament before the postseason begins with 4A sub-regionals on Feb. 7.
Calm and efficient, Hall navigated his bracket at arguably the toughest one-day tournament in the state with aplomb, winning low-scoring, grinding matches early before finishing with an explosive flourish in the final.
Hall helped the Vikings finish fourth in the team standings with 178.5 points. First-place Tahoma amassed 213.5, followed by 2019 Viking Invite champion Mount Spokane (189.5) and Orting (179.5).
Hall spoke of his ability to “keep his head cool”, and it had nothing to do with a wet towel.
“Everybody gets physically fatigued in sports, but if you can stay in the game when you get mentally fatigued, you can take advantage of people who can’t,” Hall said. “Some people freak out when they’re mentally fatigued and they let their bodies take over from their minds. I try to do the opposite, and I feel like I can outlast people.”
After earning a first-round bye, Hall beat Orting’s Joseph Evans 5-1 in the quarterfinal round, earning takedowns in the first and second periods, escaped Evans early in the third, and rode him out from there.
His second-period escape against South Kitsap’s Adam Kennedy in their semifinal was the only point of the bout, and again Hall was able to keep his opponent down for most of the third period.
Early in his championship bout against Mount Spokane’s Kingston Grey, an opportunity presented itself that Hall couldn’t let slip.
“He was trying to wrestle pretty Greco (only attacking the upper body) against me, and he was doing it pretty recklessly,” Hall said.
The taller, heavier Grey had all of his momentum going forward against Hall, who used that against him and threw Grey to the mat straight to his back, and pinned him in 45 seconds to win the tournament.
“I hardly ever throw people,” Hall said. “It’s pretty risky for me, and I like to stick to what I’m good at, but he walked right into it.”
Lake Stevens senior 220-pounder Jacob Vincent surged into the finals, where he met Tahoma’s Levi Kovacs with revenge on his mind.
Kovacs had beaten Vincent 5-3 in the Vikings’ first dual of the season, and got the better of the Lake Stevens Tri-State champion Saturday, rallying from a three-point second-period deficit and eventually pinning Vincent via cradle in the first period of overtime.
Vincent had been dominant up to that point, pinning Raj Cheema of Auburn Riverside and Mount Spokane’s Tyler Dallas on his way to the final. Vincent had also beaten Dallas during his run to the Tri-State title in December.
Lake Stevens sophomore Wyatt Springer was admittedly a little burned out after a freshman campaign in which he, by his own admission, underachieved. He went 1-2 at 132 pounds in his first Mat Classic, and he said he took a month off from wrestling over the summer for the first time in years.
“I needed to get my mind right. I was being lazy and not doing those extra little things. Sometimes my focus was elsewhere,” Springer said. “I wanted to find myself and find my reason for wrestling. It’s my teammates and to contribute to something bigger than myself.”
Springer has been resurgent for Lake Stevens this season, and eased into the finals on Saturday to set up a championship bout against Casey Howerton of Mount Spokane.
It was another rematch from Tri-State, as Springer beat Howerton in the third/fourth-place match in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, and capped an inspired run through the consolation bracket after losing his opening match.
This time, Howerton was victorious. The Wildcats’ junior took control of the match late in the second period, and was leading 7-2 when he pinned Springer with 1:17 remaining in the bout.
The consensus among coaches Saturday was that 113 pounds was the most competitive bracket at the Viking Invite, which was saying something given the amount of talent on show.
Lake Stevens freshman Jake Hubby Jr. nearly emerged from that stacked field, beating Mount Si’s Tryon Kaess, the defending 4A state champion at 106, in the quarterfinals and topped fellow freshman phenom Mitchell Neiner of South Kitsap 3-2 in triple overtime in a pulsating semifinal.
Moses Lake’s Jonathan Tanguma, a Tri-State champion himself, took an early lead in the championship bout against Hubby and asserted himself after a scoreless second period en route to a 6-1 win.
“(Tanguma) was physical and we knew he was good on his feet,” Barnes said. “There’s a lot of emotion leading up to a match like that in a big spot. Jake’s pretty steady. He’ll learn from this.”
Sophomore 170-pounder Sean Sanchez was the surprise of the day for the Vikings, pinning the top seed, Quentin Farrar of Orting, in the quarterfinals before grinding out a 5-3 decision over Mt. Spokane’s Cooper Miethe, ranked 5th in 3A, in the semifinals.
“I’ve been working on being more aggressive and having heavy hands,” said Sanchez, who has been wrestling at 182 in duals for the Vikings. “I just listen to what the coaches tell me.”
“No, if I’m being honest,” Barnes said when asked if he would have predicted Sanchez making the finals. “But he’s got a good gas tank and he works very hard. He’s put a lot of time into the sport.”
The run came to an end for Sanchez with a 3-1 loss to Camas’ Dominic Fujihara in the finals.
In addition to the five finalists, Lake Stevens also saw 11 wrestlers place out of the 21 that competed Saturday.