SULTAN — The rise of the Sultan wrestling program, which began in 2015 and continued through three consecutive top-10 finishes in the 1A state tournament, is entering a second phase in 2019.
A new class of Turks wrestlers, weaned on the success of the first group that brought the program back to statewide prominence, served notice Thursday that a slight regression in 2018 was an aberration.
Sultan had its way with an up-and-coming Granite Falls team in a 48-24 win on the Turks’ senior night, and led by undefeated defending 126-pound state champion Luke Weaver, coach Garth MacDicken’s crew proved it has staying power.
The Turks clinched their seventh consecutive league championship with the win, and will now turn their attention toward the postseason, which begins Feb. 2 with the 1A sub-regional tournament at Mount Baker.
“Today went a little better than we expected,” MacDicken said. “Our seniors stepped up in a big way today and helped us get that league title, which was a nice bonus.”
Sultan’s four seniors — Weaver, Donald Dennis (160 pounds), Skyler Talik (182) and Jason Atkinson (195) all won their bouts against the Tigers on Thursday in their final home match.
The Turks dominated the upper weights, reeling off five consecutive victories — four via pinfall — from 160 pounds through Tyler Deason’s pin of the Tigers’ Blake Williams at 220 pounds, stretching a 21-12 advantage to 48-12 and putting the dual to bed.
The three Granite Falls standouts in the Tigers lineup Thursday — 106-pounder Riley Hoople, 120-pounder Christian Roberts and 152-pounder Hayden Long — each took care of business with victories via pin and were clearly better than their respective opponents Thursday, but MacDicken has been able to maintain Sultan’s overall depth as a new crop of wrestlers has entered the program.
It’s something that Granite Falls coach Tony Helgeson is trying to replicate with the Tigers. Hoople is a freshman, and Roberts and Long are both sophomores. All three will be threats to make deep postseason runs this year.
“We just try and stick by a philosophy that’s worked for us and that the kids are familiar with,” MacDicken said. “The younger kids know about the success that we’ve had, and Luke was on those teams and knows the tone that has to be set in the room to achieve that kind of success. He’s done a great job with making sure our practices run the same way.”
The 2018-19 edition of the Turks will have quite a job on their hands to match the program’s high-water mark, a fourth-place team finish in 2016-17 that featured two state champions (Jamell Carroll II, Tanner Belcher) and one runner-up (Morgan Yates).
But they’re ready to take their shot.
“We’ve been building for a long time,” Weaver said. “A lot of kids started when they were five in the Sultan Turks youth wrestling program and have come up through the middle-school program. We’re super-excited for the postseason.”