Stanwood’s Marc Hruschka gets his face pushed by Arlington’s Mason Boardley during the 106 pound weigh class match on Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2023 in Arlington, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Stanwood’s Marc Hruschka gets his face pushed by Arlington’s Mason Boardley during the 106 pound weigh class match on Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2023 in Arlington, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Stanwood outlasts Arlington to secure Wesco 3A North title

The Spartans prevail over the rival Eagles 45-28 in one of the most highly anticipated Wesco duals of the season.

By Brian Adamowsky / For The Herald

ARLINGTON — Stanwood’s star power at the lower weights canceled out Arlington’s early on in Tuesday’s Battle of the Bull, but the Spartans’ depth at the upper weights proved to be too much for the upstart Eagles as Stanwood prevailed, 45-28, in front of a packed house in one of the most highly anticipated duals on the 2022-23 Wesco calendar.

Stanwood clung to a 27-22 lead after Arlington junior Dustin Baxter, ranked fifth in 3A by Washington Wresting Report, jumped up two weight classes to beat sixth-ranked Spartans senior Ryder Bumgarner at 170 pounds, but the Spartans reeled off three consecutive pins at 182, 195 and 220 pounds to seal the win. Carter Kinney, seventh-ranked Mason Ferguson and No. 6 Elijah Fleck, two seniors and a sophomore, respectively, secured the 18 points needed to put the dual out of reach of upstart Arlington.

Stanwood’s win gave longtime coach Ray Mather, who is retiring after this season, and the Spartans’ 10 seniors a win over their archrivals that secured a Wesco 3A North championship ahead of the postseason, which begins with the district tournament on Feb. 4-5 at Stanwood.

“It feels amazing. It’s almost a relief,” said Ferguson, who pinned Arlington’s Holden Strande with 32 seconds remaining in regulation to give Stanwood an insurmountable 17-point lead with two bouts remaining. “I knew the match was on the line, but we practice every day for that. We know the pressure’s going to be there and I was just excited. I was nervous some, but it was mostly excitement but to go out and show what I’ve worked on and what I’ve built up in myself. I just went out there and wrestled my match.”

Arlington coach Jonny Gilbertson sold out to try and shock the Spartans on Tuesday, shuffling his lineup aggressively in search of matchups that favored his Eagles. One such move was bumping Baxter up to 170 for the first time this season, where his superb technical ability eventually wore out the bigger Bumgarner.

Trailing 3-1 entering the third period, Baxter picked up a quick escape to cut the deficit to one and narrowly missed two takedown attempts of Bumgarner in the final minute before a second stalling call on the tiring Stanwood football star incurred a one-point penalty and sent the bout to sudden victory.

Another stalling call against Bumgarner gave Baxter a 4-3 win.

“I asked him to do that for the team, because I knew if we wanted to win this dual, we needed him to be our hometown hero,” Gilbertson said. “That was part of it for the team. The other part of it is we’ve been talking about a change in mindset where we want to go out and be the hunter. We want to chase down our opponents and be aggressive and not hold anything back. We put him in a situation where he needed to go get it and not protect anything. It was an opportunity for him to prove to himself that he’s got what it takes to win a state title.”

Three bouts earlier, Gilbertson threw freshman standout Tre Haines into a match against undefeated and second-ranked Tyler Rhue, and that gamble nearly paid dividends as well. After a first period devoid of virtually any action, Rhue earned an early escape in the second and took a 1-0 lead into the third when a technical violation for interlocking hands knotted the bout at one. Haines escaped with 30 seconds remaining to take the lead but was called for stalling with 10 ticks on the clock to force sudden victory.

Rhue scored a contested takedown halfway through the first overtime period to earn the win.

“He’s a high-caliber guy and a great freshman that’s super-talented,” Rhue said. “But we want those matches going into the postseason to show us where we’re at and what we need to improve on. I just wanted to keep my pressure up and keep him on his toes and on the edge. It didn’t work out exactly the way I wanted it to tonight, but I got it done.”

After the two teams traded victories in the first four bouts, punctuated by Arlington’s Beau Gudde upsetting fourth-ranked Stanwood senior Bryan Roodzant at 126 pounds, Keaton Mayernik, the top-ranked 132-pounder in the state and a bona fide state title contender along with Rhue, righted the ship for the Spartans with a quick pin of Kane Odenius. Lane Ovenell followed with a pin for Stanwood at 138, and Rhue’s white-knuckle victory over Haines at 145 gave Stanwood a 27-9 lead.

Arlington fought back with three straight wins of its own, by Jack Mani (152), Cole Canell (160) and Baxter.

Stanwood’s Carter Kinney pinned Roderick Bernardo late in the first period to give the Spartans some breathing room and set the stage for Ferguson to ice it.

“We didn’t have the firepower tonight, but we threw everything but the kitchen sink at them and just fell short,” Gilbertson said. “But we’re willing to lose matches in December and January to win in the postseason.”

Mather, who took photos with his team and Arlington’s following his final rivalry clash with the Eagles, is hoping to end his coaching tenure with the Spartans by improving on the program’s all-time best fourth-place finish at Mat Classic in 2020.

“I’d say we’re dang near there,” Mather said when asked if his team was approaching peak performance as the postseason looms. “We still have some things to work on and some technique things and mat situations, but we’re ready to roll. We’re the team with the most returners back and that’s got to work in some kind of direction for us. We kind of fell short at the end of the tournament last year with some guys not making it to the medal rounds, but those are the guys I’m counting on this year.”

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