As the buzzer sounded, the official raised two fingers above his head.
That was just enough for Auburn Mountainview’s Brahm Trujillo to secure an 8-7 victory – and, more importantly, a 4A Region 1 championship – at 138 pounds Saturday against Enumclaw’s Quinton Southcott at Todd Beamer High School in Federal Way.
“I think they saved the best for last,” Auburn Mountainview coach Jay McGuffin said. “It probably was the most exciting final match I’ve seen at the tournament. It was just full of lead changes, and just a lot of high-level wrestling from two of the state’s best.”
It was a role reversal for Trujillo, who lost a 4-1 decision to Southcott during the Feb. 4 sub-regional tournament. After that match, McGuffin said he and his coaching staff worked with Trujillo in anticipation of a rematch with Southcott. After his most recent match, Trujillo raced off the mat to embrace his coaches.
But he was not just excited about overcoming Southcott. In the 3A state tournament, Trujillo placed third as a freshman at 120 pounds and then he finished seventh at 126 as a sophomore. But early in the 2015-16 season, Trujillo tore the labrum in his right shoulder, which required season-ending surgery. Trujillo, who said his shoulder now feels “200 percent,” is excited for the opportunity to return to state. And McGuffin might be even more elated to see his pupil’s success.
“His attitude has changed this year,” he said. “He has been so focused on the sport and technique. He’s been a great team guy and a great leader.”
The top four placers from the regional tournament advance to Mat Classic XXIX, which runs Friday and Saturday at the Tacoma Dome. A pair of Lions – Russell Hanson (132) and Mahlik Walker (120), both of whom placed third – will join Trujillo at state.
Each Auburn School District program had at least one regional champion. For Auburn Riverside, Jaden Cassel won a 9-2 decision against Lake Stevens’ Jake Bennet at 106 pounds. Cassel said he was “really nervous” going into the match because Bennet was ranked higher than him, but he also knew he was prepared because his practice partner is Marco Galeano, who finished fourth.
“When I’m wrestling every day, I have more challenges than most people have in tournaments,” Cassel said.
The Ravens again were strong in the lighter weight classes. At 113, Yusef Nelson finished second – Glacier Peak’s Parker Hardy pinned him in 3:43 – and Mikah Fathers was third.
“He beat a kid who beat him last week,” Auburn Riverside coach Kyle Jones said of Fathers pinning Auburn’s Jake Aplin in 4:59. “I thought his performance was awesome.”
Jonathon Richard, who placed fourth at 170, also will advance to state for the Ravens along with Kenny Miller (160) and Sam Onishchenko (182). The latter two finished second with Miller being pinned by Kamiak’s Warren Han in 49 seconds. Meanwhile, Auburn’s Cole Washburn needed just 17 seconds to pin Onishchenko.
“I told my coach before the match that I was going to clap my hands because it makes people blink,” said Washburn, who was honored as the 4A Region 1 Wrestler of the Year. “I did it the third try. It worked and then I went to the trash compactor – a leg ride with a cradle – and I ended it there.”
While Washburn faced little adversity en route to a regional title, that was not the scenario teammate Austin Riehl encountered. Riehl won a 6-3 decision against Todd Beamer’s Desmond Nelton. But Riehl almost did not advance to that point. He said he trailed Nelton’s teammate, Tibou Bangoura, by six points in their semifinal before he won 11-8.
“Tibou was beating me pretty bad,” Riehl said.
But after taking a “disappointing” third place at sub-regionals, Riehl said he was motivated to improve. Auburn coach Dennis Herren said it is impressive that Riehl has advanced to this point.
“Austin’s transformation for being a pretty good junior-varsity wrestler to this year puts a smile on every coach’s face,” he said. “This hasn’t been handed to him.”
Based on Herren’s view of the regional tournament, which included schools from the North Puget Sound League Olympic Division and Wesco, nothing was given to anyone.
“I predict the NPSL Olympic Division and this region are eventually going to be the powerhouse of the state tournament,” he said. “You’re going to continue to see better and better wrestling coming out of this league and region over the next couple of years.”