LAKE STEVENS — For as much winning as the Lake Stevens wrestling program has done in coach Brent Barnes’ tenure with the Vikings, he insists that he and his staff talk very little about winning and losing in the practice room.
“Our overall philosophy is not about winning and losing,” he said. “We don’t allow that to get in the way of getting better and enjoying the sport. We’re very careful about the vocabulary we use with the kids and try to get them to live in the moment and develop camaraderie.”
It certainly has paid dividends in terms of trophies.
Lake Stevens won the Class 4A team title at Mat Classic last season for the second consecutive season and has topped the state’s largest classification six times since 2005-06 and nine times since 1998-99.
The squad that is aiming for a third consecutive team title this season will be headlined by junior Michael Soler, who is looking for a personal three-peat to go along with the team’s, and senior Cody Vigoren, also a returning state champion.
Soler would become Lake Stevens’ first three-time state champion since Josh Heinzer (2008-2010) should he conquer the field at 132 pounds.
It will be a sizable jump in weight class for Soler, who competed at 106 pounds as a freshman and 113 last year as a sophomore.
“I’m not too worried about it,” said Soler, whose older brother Eric won a pair of state titles for the Vikings. “I wasn’t trying to go up in weight, but I grew and spent a lot of time in the weight room this summer. I’ll be able to do the same things I would normally do at the higher weight.”
Barnes said Soler’s insatiable desire to improve and learn the craft of wrestling have served him well in his first two seasons at Lake Stevens.
“He’s a true student of the sport, and you’re not going to find anyone who enjoys the process more than Michael Soler,” Barnes said. “Moving up to 132 will be another challenge for him, but he’s been dealing with pressure and expectations his whole life. He’s a competitor and a gamer. He knows that you win some and lose some, and he’ll have opportunities beyond high school wrestling.”
Vigoren, who will wrestle at 195 pounds again this season but may occasionally bump up to 220 if the team needs him to, already has secured his wrestling future, signing with the University of Wyoming for next season. A longtime wrestler and baseball player, Vigoren only recently dedicated himself to the mat year-round.
“He’s really coming into his own,” Barnes said of Vigoren. “He’s so physical, and such a great leader with great character.”
Vigoren said that wrestling in such a tradition-rich program as Lake Stevens doesn’t add any extra pressure to whatever he already puts on himself, but provides benchmarks for the future.
“I don’t really look at it as extra pressure but as something to look forward to,” he said.
Vigoren would like to work on getting to opponents’ legs more this year, and being able to do so will widen his repertoire of moves when he’s wrestling on his feet.
“I want to be able to take down anyone,” he said.
The Vikings finished third over the weekend at the prestigious Sidney Eagle Invitational in Montana, placing behind the hosts and Poway High School of California.
Barnes has put together a very competitive schedule for the Vikings that will see them wrestle dual meets against Class 4A powers Moses Lake and Tahoma, as well as out-of-state programs such as Hermiston (Ore.).
Lake Stevens also will compete at the Doc Buchanan Invitational in Clovis, Calif. on Jan. 9-10, an event Barnes called one of the top five tournaments in the United States.