It started with big muscle and finished with small craftsmanship, with some push from the middleweights.
Put together, from top to bottom, Auburn Riverside remains the best wrestling team on this side of the 4A North Puget Sound League.
Eight wrestlers reached the finals, with six capturing weight-class titles, to power the Ravens to a third consecutive NPSL Olympic Division/sub-district tournament championship Saturday at Auburn High School’s Bob Jones Gymnasium.
Auburn Riverside, which trailed Enumclaw by five points entering the final bouts, generated enough points to pull the three-peat. The Ravens finished with 327 points, qualifying 13 individuals and two alternates for next week’s regionals, the final step to state.
Enumclaw followed with 305 points.
“It definitely was a good weekend,” said Ravens coach Kyle Jones. “They (Enumclaw) made us work for it. It was really hard. But we’ve got some big guns who are seniors. … Those two (lightweights Yusef Nelson and Jaden Cassel) going back and forth … they’re pretty awesome.
“And some of the other guys are starting to step up along with our big guns.”
The big guns set the tone.
Senior heavyweight Eyvar Robles (24-8) got it started, mauling Todd Beamer’s Mori Guilbeau with a pin at the 4:40 mark. Will Russell, a 220-pound senior looking to return to state, pinned Decatur’s Sampson Mitchell at 3:51.
Russell (30-8) went toe-to-toe with Mitchell, preferring to wrestle on his feet rather than apply weight to his wrapped, sore shoulder.
“Tore a muscle,” Russell said. “Been rehabilitating it. It’s going to be all right. … I should be right there (in contention next week).”
At 195 pounds, junior Ethan Pedro took down Thomas Jefferson’s Roman Shuck with 26 seconds left in overtime for a wild 4-2 win. Pedro led 2-1, but Shuck escaped for the tying point as the third period expired.
Senior Peyton Scheschy (26-8) dominated Enumclaw’s Anthony Russell to win the 145-pound class with an 8-0 major decision. Nelson (24-4), a 120-pound senior and state runner-up last season, built a 15-4 lead before downing Enumclaw’s Cade Carter by fall at 3:22. And Cassel (25-5), a 113-pound junior, handled Auburn’s Dalton Whitehall-Gilkes by technical fall, 18-3, at the 3:04 mark.
Sophomore Christian Pedro (182 pounds) and junior Kailen Fontes (138) reached but lost their championship bouts for the Ravens.
Also advancing for Auburn Riverside were: freshman Cole Cross (third, 106 pounds); sophomore Ismael Jimenez (fourth, 120); junior Aaron Baldridge (third, 132); sophomore Jayden Barnes (fourth, 170); and junior Raj Cheema (fourth, 195).
Jones likes his team’s chances at regionals.
“It’s a tough region, but I think we’re in good shape,” he said. “We got some guys who can definitely get through. … I’m really excited about it. We’ll see. We’ve got to keep working. They’re doing a really good job right now. The kids are awesome.”
With a second to spare
One of the tournament’s most dramatic finishes saw Auburn’s Gabe Sena pull out a wild win in the 132-pound final.
Sena, a junior, found himself on his back and in jeopardy of getting pinned against Enumclaw’s Aidan Carroll. But Sena somehow slipped out of Carroll’s cradle hold, swapped positions and pinned his opponent with one second left on the second-period clock.
“A little surprised but very happy,” Sena said of his comeback. “This puts me in great shape for next week. I’m just looking to get (back) to state.”
Coach Matt Hoover said Sena “unbelievable” win almost didn’t happen.
“Gabe’s been hurt. … Yesterday morning he wasn’t even going to wrestle,” admitted Hoover. “We said, ‘Go put your singlet on, weigh in, and let’s see what happens.’
“He wins the tournament. He showed some guts,” Hoover said. “I’m super proud of him.”
In addition to Sena (14-3) and Whitehall-Gilkes (29-9), Auburn qualified five others to regionals: 160-pound finalist Mason Rowland; Alex Contreras (fourth, 126); Aric Hays (fourth, 145); Ronnie Mairs (third, 170); and Jace Graves (195).
Auburn Mountainview’s Brennen Hanson fell behind early, scrambled but ran out of time in dropping a 7-5 decision to Decatur’s Bradley Tyack. It was Hanson’s first loss in 33 bouts this season.
“Brennen has a lot of respect for Bradley. He knows how tough he is and how good of a far-side cradle he has,” said Lions coach Jay McGuffin. “So it was like, ‘Don’t let the kid (go) on top and don’t let him get a far-side cradle.’ Unfortunately, we didn’t capitalize … he turned us and we ran out of time.”
Hanson, a state-class performer, no longer will have to compete with the weight of a perfect record, which might serve him well in the long run, McGuffin said.
“That’s exactly what we emphasized to Brennen, the fact that you need to taste it (a loss) before the state tournament gets here,” the coach said. “And he said it doesn’t taste good at all, and he doesn’t want to taste it again. I know it’s going to help him work hard this week.”
The Lions produced a champion – sophomore Kamana Nahaku, who took a 5-0 decision over Federal Way’s Michael Procter-Yates at 126 pounds.
Auburn Mountainview’s other regional qualifiers are: Abdulhaq Fnu (fourth, 113); Jake Aplin (third, 126); Matthew Nolan (fourth, 160); and Caden Reyes (third, 182).
The top-four finishers from the league tournament qualified for this Saturday’s regionals. First bouts begin at 10 a.m. at Todd Beamer High School in Federal Way. The top four finishers from regionals advance to Mat Classic XXXI at the Tacoma Dome on Feb. 15-16. … Decatur finished third in the tourney’s eight-team chase with 246.5 points, followed by Auburn (209) and Auburn Mountainview (170.5). … The Ravens also completed a third straight, unbeaten sweep – taking the division’s regular-season dual and tournament titles.