TACOMA — After winning his fourth state championship in as many years, all Lake Stevens senior Michael Soler could talk about — after he caught his breath — was the Vikings winning their third team title in the past four years.
“The team title means the world,” Soler said. “I’m so excited for that. It’s really great to finish my high-school career. I’ve got four state titles as a person and three team (titles) and that’s awesome.”
Soler was out of breath because his opponent in the finals, Moses Lake’s Hudson Mauseth made him work for his 14-6 win.
“I’m really tired right now,” Soler said. “That kid was really big and strong. He really went after me and he got me really tired.”
With the win, Soler became just the 12th boys wrestler in the history of Mat Classic to win four individual state titles.
Part of the secret of Soler’s success has been his technical approach to wrestling. It’s serves as a secret weapon of sorts when he’s out-matched strength-wise.
“He really works at his craft, and you can tell,” Lake Stevens head coach Brent Barnes said. “That kid from Moses Lake was definitely a little bit stronger than Michael, but he is so technically sound and has such a great game plan that he’s tough to beat in those big matches.”
On Friday, Barnes said he thought the team championship might come down to Soler’s championship match.
There was no such drama. Lake Stevens clinched the team championship when Moses Lake’s Nick Hara lost the championship match at 120 pounds. The Vikings finished with 121 points and Moses Lake finished with 103.
“I’ve never had a team that has performed as well as this team has,” Barnes said. “We had teams that were probably better, but this team performed probably the best I’ve ever seen at the state tournament — in our program.
“I don’t think a lot of people really thought we were going to be able to do this this year,” Barnes said. “We had some ups and downs during the season, but our kids were really positive throughout. They came to practice and worked really hard. We had great leadership by Jake Douglas and Michael (Soler) and Trysten (Perales), of course.”
Aside some Soler, Perales was the Vikings’ only other individual champion — winning at 145 pounds. He defeated James Rogers of Battle Ground by a score of 5-2 in the final.
“The thing about Trysten is that he’s always kind of been in the shadow of Michael and Jake,” Barnes said. “He’s always plugged away. He’s a kid that has a job, is a great family member and is really respectful. More than anything, you just wanted to see him have success because he’s a great person. He’s just a great human being.
“He earned that just by hard work and perseverance. He’s had a great season.”
But the night belonged to Soler.
After Soler’s victory, several other four-time state champions posed for pictures and hugged the senior. One of them was former Lake Stevens’ star Burke Barnes.
“He’s helped me so much during my career and I’m so glad he was there for it,” Soler said. “He gave me a hug afterward. I just love Burke and the entire Lake Stevens family.”
Brent Barnes has coached a lot of great wrestlers, but Soler’s work ethic made him special.
“It’s been a pleasure,” Barnes said. “He’s been so much fun and such a hard worker. He comes from a great family. There’s not many four-time state champions around and he’s right up on the top of the list.”
Aaron Lommers covers prep sports for The Herald. Follow him on Twitter at @aaronlommers and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.