Auburn captured four of the last five bouts to pull out a dramatic, comeback victory over heralded rival Auburn Riverside in a North Puget Sound League Olympic Division dual wrestling meet at Bob Jones Gymnasium on Jan. 23.
The Trojans pulled even 33-33 after 14 individual bouts and won the match on a tiebreaker – a one-point penalty deduction against the Ravens for misconduct. Auburn Riverside had been penalized a team point earlier in the evening when one of its wrestlers removed his headgear and tossed it off the mat. That point was the difference in the outcome.
The wild finish snapped the Ravens’ 27-league-match winning streak, stretching back to the 2015-16 season when the school was part of the 3A South Puget Sound League. The Ravens were unbeaten, three-time dual meet league champions entering the winter slate.
It was a monumental win for the Trojans and their third-year coach Matt Hoover, a former Iowa wrestler who competed for the Hawkeyes under legendary Dan Gable.
“I am really proud of the fight our guys showed from top to bottom,” Hoover said of the win that forged a three-way tie among Auburn, Auburn Riverside and Enumclaw for the Olympic dual lead, each at 5-1. “Riverside is a great team and is at the top of the league every year. I think everyone can agree that they have been the measuring stick for the past few years, and it is big for our seniors and our program in general to have caught up to them.
“(It) was a great win and it puts a much needed spark back in the Auburn versus Riverside rivalry,” Hoover said. “Even though we are excited to have gotten the win, the trick is replicating it like they have year in and year out.”
In the final bout of the match, Auburn freshman Dominik Smith produced a 13-6 decision against Kailen Fontes at 145 pounds. Smith came out quick and caught Fontes in a tight headlock, nearly pinning him in the first period. The rest of the match featured scrambles and near pins for both wrestlers before Smith came away with the decision to tie the match.
Auburn began the match with Iurri Danulchenko’s second-round pin at 152 pounds.
After the Ravens’ Justin Pritchard grabbed a 10-5 decision over Eddie Carter at 160, Auburn’s Ronnie Labranche-Mairs delivered a quick pin at 170 pounds.
Auburn Riverside reeled off three wins. The Ravens’ Ethan Pedro took a 13-2 major decision over Mason Rowland at 182. Jayden Barnes (195) and Christian Pedro (220) posted pins.
Auburn rallied behind Dalton Whitehall-Gilkes (120) and Gabe Sena (126), seniors who pulled off back-to-back pins.
In one of the more pivotal bouts of the night, the Ravens’ returning state runner-up, Jaden Cassel, moved up to 132 pounds to confront and defeat Jack McCabe, 10-6.
“Although Jack lost, he showed tremendous heart and kept the loss to a regular decision,” Hoover said. “His fight really helped the team because we only gave up three points versus 4 or 6, which Riverside would have gotten if their guy had gotten a major or fall. His loss by regular decision saved the dual for us.”
Alex Contreras pulled Auburn to within three when he survived a 16-10 decision against Grant Mattson at 138.
For the Trojans, Sidney Sanchezllanes earned a 3-1 decision against Raj Cheema.
For the Ravens, 106-pound Cryson Uclaray won by forfeit and Cole Cross prevailed by fall at 113.
“(It) was a great dual. (Former coach and legend) Kip Herren said the atmosphere was ‘like it was in the old days,’ ” Hoover said. “In the time I’ve been here, I haven’t seen or heard anything like it. … This win was definitely a team effort.
“We have a lot of work to do as we head into the postseason, but (the match) was definitely the shot in the arm that we needed as we head into the league tournament.”