TACOMA — To a man, the Lake Stevens wrestling team said over and over again during the weekend at Mat Classic XXVII that earning a third consecutive Class 4A team title overshadowed any individual goals or accomplishments.
After falling behind Moses Lake after the afternoon session on Friday, the Vikings scratched and clawed their way back into contention for the crown, taking the Chiefs down to the wire before coming up just short.
The individual exploits of the Vikings — and the knowledge that they did everything they could to push the Chiefs — will have to sustain the perennial 4A power until they make their next run at the title next season.
Junior 132-pounder Michael Soler, the very embodiment of a tournament winner, won his third state championship in as many years on Saturday night, defeating Pasco’s Timmy Martinez 5-4 in an epic clash that captivated the Tacoma Dome crowd.
He now follows Josh Heinzer as the latest Lake Stevens wrestler to win three titles, and will make his run at four titles and the accompanying immortality as a senior with his customary cool and grace.
Senior Cody Vigoren completed his destruction of the 195-pound bracket with a first-period pin of Tahoma’s Adam Hokenson on Saturday night.
It was his fourth pinfall in as many matches this tourney, and his eighth consecutive pin at Mat Classic. The Wyoming-bound Vigoren has won back-to-back state titles without ever needing the full six minutes to eliminate his opponents.
But both wrestlers were emotional after Moses Lake’s Hudson Mauseth clinched the team title for the Chiefs with a 7-4 decision over Union’s Michael Snediker.
“It’s very bittersweet,” Vigoren said. “There’s no feeling like having so many guys work so hard for each other. It’s tough knowing that I’ll never be on a team with these guys again. They’re the best teammates anyone could ever ask for.”
The Vikings trailed Moses Lake 107-103 heading into the finals, but even with four finalists compared to Moses Lake’s three, Lake Stevens still couldn’t make up the difference.
Senior Alex Rodorigo lost to Yelm’s Darren Harris in the 126-pound final, and 138-pounder Jake Douglas lost a 1-0 match to Central Valley’s Blake Beard at 138.
“We wrestled really well, and did everything we could possibly do to push Moses Lake, but they were just better than us, a little deeper,” Lake Stevens coach Brent Barnes said. “But it was fun for everyone to have a race that close.”
Soler did his part with his win over Martinez, taking him down early and nearly pinning him with a cradle in the first period before, in his estimation, getting turned from underneath for the first time this season.
He took a 5-2 lead into the second period and rode Martinez out before allowing two back points in the third period for the final margin. Still, Soler was a cool customer after the win.
“I wasn’t worried except for when he caught me in that nasty tilt he has,” he said. “It’s by far the biggest win of my career because he’s one of the best kids I’ve ever wrestled.”
Martinez, a senior, was denied a third straight championship by Soler.
Soler benefited from a gamble by Martinez and Pasco coach Jay Covington in the third period that didn’t pay off.
Martinez , trailing 5-4, could have elected to cut Soler and cede the one-point escape in hopes of taking him down to tie the match, but elected to try and turn him a second time.
“I was a little surprised,” Barnes said of Martinez’s strategy. “I thought Michael getting the quick takedown really set the tone for the match, and maybe they didn’t want it to happen again.”
As always, Soler managed to get the job done.
“Michael is just amazing,” Barnes said. “He’s just the consummate competitor and he has ice in his veins. If you look at him physically he’s not the most imposing guy, but he more than makes up for it with savvy and technique. He’s just a flat-out winner.”
Vigoren, by contrast, was all power and aggression throughout the weekend.
“I was just on a mission,” he said.
But even his four pinfalls came with the considerations of his team in the back of his mind.
“My team needed pins to earn extra team points, and I tried to do whatever I could for the team.”