SNOHOMISH — The way the Lake Stevens wrestling team competed Saturday at the 4A Region 1 Tournament at Glacier Peak High School, the fact that the Vikings didn’t have two potential state placers could have been lost on even the keenest observer.
The Vikings easily outperformed the rest of Wesco 4A and the South Puget Sound League’s 4A teams to win the team title with 235.5 team points.
Lake Stevens and coach Brent Barnes will take 12 wrestlers to the Tacoma Dome on Friday for Mat Classic XXXII, and cheered two regional champions Saturday — sophomore Tyler Fouts at 120 pounds and senior 220-pounder Jacob Vincent.
Barnes said he was as excited about the six Lake Stevens state qualifiers who earned berths by winning do-or-die consolation matches that guaranteed them third or fourth place and a trip to Tacoma as he was about the team’s six finalists. He also confirmed that a pair of projected state placers — freshman 113-pounder Jake Hubby Jr. and senior 160-pounder Brandon Poe were finished for the season.
Barnes said Hubby failed to make weight before last weekend’s sub-regional tournament and was thus ineligible for any subsequent postseason competition, and Poe broke his jaw during a match against Orting at the Stinky Pete Duals in Post Falls, Idaho on Jan. 25.
The top four wrestlers at each weight Saturday advanced to the state tournament, and the regional featured an eight-person bracket as opposed to the 16-man bracket that will be utilized at Mat Classic.
Second-place South Kitsap amassed 131.5 points, as the visiting SPSL schools monopolized the top 10 with the exception of eighth-place Monroe, which totaled 74 team points.
The Bearcats had one champion (senior Joseph Littrell at 160) and a third-place finisher (junior Ben Davis at 195).
Two all-local finals
Wrestling full of confidence at his preferred weight of 170 pounds, Glacier Peak’s Dylan Owen thundered to a regional title, pinning all three of his opponents capped by a win over Lake Stevens’ Sean Sanchez in the finals 3 minutes into the bout.
Vincent (29-4) is also feeling bullish on his Mat Classic prospects for Lake Stevens and his third of three pins in Saturday’s title-winning performance came against Cascade junior Sam Kolesar.
Owen and Sanchez, admiringly referred to as “a grinder” by Barnes and a surprise finalist at the Viking Invite on Jan. 18, also battled in last weekend’s sub-regional final at Monroe, with Owen prevailing in a tight 9-5 decision.
It was a different story Saturday, as Owen, sixth in the state in Washington Wrestling Report’s 4A rankings, led 7-1 when he put Sanchez on his back.
“Making the move down to 170 has been big for me. With my technique and my mentality right now, I just feel like I’m my best wrestling self at 170,” Owen said.
Owen (33-7) dominated the Wesco 4A portion of the Grizzlies’ schedule, pinning each of his conference opponents in the first period.
He showed he has the gas tank to go six minutes in the sub-regional win, and is prepared for more three-round contests in Tacoma.
“I’m ready for the grinder matches,” said Owen, who went 3-2 and fell a win short of the placing matches in his first state tournament appearance last year as a junior, also at 170 pounds.
“We talk in our room about putting the other guy out in deep water, where he’s got to really dig deep. (Going to state) is just the payoff for all the work, before and during the season,” Owen said.
Despite his sub-regional win, Owen said he felt he could have been more active, and worked with Glacier Peak coach Bryan Mossberg on motion this week.
Vincent’s title match with Kolesar was also a rematch of a sub-regional final, but last Saturday, Vincent recorded the pin in 4 minutes, 55 seconds.
The long, rangy Vincent needed less than a minute to subdue Kolesar Saturday, ending the bout in 51 seconds.
“I feel really good, and I’m definitely excited for state,” Vincent said. “I have a great practice partner in (Vikings’ 285-pounder) Wyatt Hall, and we push each other really hard. I feel like I plateaued a little bit after winning Tri-State, but I feel better now than I did then.”
Vincent said he didn’t spend much time in practice this week preparing for a possible rematch with Kolesar, but worked on fine-tuning his own game.
“I really just focused on my own stuff,” he said. “I’m working on staying active on my feet and I’ve worked on a couple of different shots I haven’t really used before.”
Tense moments for Monroe
Monroe’s two state qualifiers provided a few of the afternoon’s most exciting moments.
Littrell, a senior who is ranked ninth in 4A, won a pulse-pounding semifinal by pinning Jake Schweyen of Puyallup with just three seconds remaining before tossing Emerald Ridge’s Brenden Kennedy to his back for the fall 40 seconds into their title bout.
In the semifinal win, Littrell rallied late to score three points in the final minute to take a 7-4 lead on Schweyen before pinning him, and took a chance on a big move in the final that paid off in a big way.
“(In the semifinal) I was going into it with the mindset that I was going to win the match. I just kept telling myself that I was going to win,” Littrell said.
Littrell doesn’t typically attempt throws where he tries to fling his opponent from his feet to his back in one huge move, but in the final the situation was perfect.
“I thought to myself, ‘Should I?’ I decided I had nothing to lose. I tripped his leg back, tightened it up and just went,” he said.
Davis was one of those wrestlers that needed to win an elimination match to get to state, and he did so in stirring fashion.
Trailing Lake Stevens’ Seth Becker 6-4 with 1:08 remaining in the match, Davis earned a one-point escape and a two-point takedown to take a 7-6 lead with 29 seconds on the clock.
A 1-point penalty was assessed to Becker for illegally interlocking hands as the final seconds ticked away, sending the bout to a sudden-victory overtime. Not only did Davis earn a takedown in the extra period to end the match, but he pinned Becker to add bonus points to Monroe’s total.
“I was destroyed out there,” Davis said. “I wasn’t even thinking. I just knew I had to get him down, and I had to take a chance. I did something scrappy and it worked out.”