Some wresting invitationals are cakewalks. And then there is the Matman Classic – the last high-profile tournament of the regular season.
And this year’s edition of the Matman Classic showcased a super-sized bracket at 145 pounds involving four reigning state champions.
When the dust settled, Lake Stevens High’s Eric Soler stood tallest, dispatching three-time state champion Jake Velarde, of North Kitsap, in the semifinals (3-1 decision) – then rolling past Graham-Kapowsin’s Ian Steen, 8-4, for the tournament title.
Soler’s win also clinched the Vikings the team title by the slimmest of margins – 186 to 1851/2 points over defending Class 4A champion Tahoma High School.
Not a bad showing for a guy who is still rounding into form after suffering a broken hand earlier in the season.
“I would say today is a good day,” said Soler while being congratulated by teammates in the corner of the Central Kitsap High School gymnasium.
“This tournament is tougher than my (4A) state bracket will be.”
The match folks packed the grandstands to see was the Soler-Velarde semifinal. Velarde was undefeated, and next month is set to try and become the 10th wrestler to win four state titles.
The score was tied 1-1 when Soler scored a takedown in the final few seconds to claim the victory.
In the other semifinal, Steen upended South Puget Sound League foe Lucas Somera, of Enumclaw. The match was stopped when Somera suffered a right-knee dislocation, and a pin was awarded to Steen.
Soler scored three reversals, including the clinching one with 20 seconds to go, to score the 8-4 decision over Steen.
Orting had the lone repeat champion in sophomore Fred Green, who won the 103 title last season. He beat Graham-Kapowsin’s Spencer Schroeder, 10-2, in the 113 finals Saturday.
Beau Gore – Green’s teammate at 152 – gave the Cardinals a second winner by defeating Enumclaw’s Justin Mitchell, 8-4.
Tahoma crowned four champions with Tim Whitehead at 126 (6-4 win over Enumclaw’s Jerad Paul), Cruz Velasquez at 132 (4-2 decision in four OT over Shelton’s Jakeob Garrick), Garrett Autrey at 182 (pin in 2:29 over Enumclaw’s Kelyn Wallin) and Matt Hopkins at 220 (in in 1:55 over Rogers’ Matt Lockey).
Graham-Kapowsin had a pair of winners in Adam Romano at 138 (injury default over teammate Corde Ferreira) and Joe Gomez at 195 (5-0 decision over Enumclaw’s Wyley Stewart).
Lakes Stevens, Tahoma, Graham-Kapowsin and Enumclaw each had five finalists Saturday. … Somera dislocated the same knee last season. Enumclaw coach Lee Reichert said he did not know what the severity of the injury was – or how it would affect the rest of his season. … South Kitsap’s Damien Medeiros gave defending Tri-State champion Brandon Johnson, of Lake Stevens, all he could handle at 285. He scored a match-tying escape with five seconds to go in regulation before Johnson won the match on a takedown with 17 seconds remaining in overtime, 6-4.