The finest chessmasters couldn’t have scripted a better match than Thursday night’s Greater Spokane League wrestling opener between University and Rogers.
Both coaches used all their gambits during U-Hi’s 40-30 victory that came after the Titans surrendered half their game pieces.
U-Hi was at check trailing 30-3 through seven matches.
Then the Titans reeled off seven straight victories, five by pin, for checkmate.
In other matches, Mead defeated Shadle Park 45-30 and North Central whipped Lewis and Clark 45-18.
None had the drama both coaches crafted in the Titans-Pirates dual.
Rogers head coach Ken Pelo was hospitalized with a possible staph infection and left the team in the hands of assistant Walt Arnold.
“Coach told me the lineup and what we wanted,” Arnold said. “We needed breaks to win it.”
As a result, Pirate competitors from 148 through 215 pounds each wrestled up a class. They got victories in all but one, including pins by sophomore Kris Clarke (148), senior Ivan Harris (168) and junior Tristan Beeman (215) in contests that were even until the end came.
Rogers also moved three other wrestlers around the game board.
But University countered with first-year wrestler Tim Buchanan (275) and Jared Osborn (129) each up two weights and freshman Conor Jordan at 115.
“Knowing Rogers, something told me they were going to do some shifting,” said Titans coach Don Owen, who had Buchanan and Osborn pack on enough weight to qualify for their matches.
Buchanan won by pin in U-Hi’s initial gambit. The Titans reeled off three more pins in a row, including with its Bishop (Craig) at 108, and by Gordon Bash (101) and Jordan.
Josh Knowles, who held off Daryl Groom, moved up to 122, in a match between state placers for a tie.
Osborn’s major decision gave U-Hi its first lead, 34-30, with state champion Andy Roberts on deck and up a weight for the finale.
He won by pin but only after being penalized for a slam that Rogers could have easily parlayed into an injury disqualification and victory.
“It comes down to sportsmanship,” said Arnold. “We want to be a class act.”
Owen lauded Darren Steeneck for carrying on.
“It says something for a kid to get up and wrestle,” he said.
Owen admitted that his heart stopped when his team trailed 30-3. But he was pleased with the effort of Buchanan and his lower-weights wrestlers.
“I didn’t think we’d get out of it,” he said. “It was a good effort by all the guys.”
Mead 45, Shadle Park 28
Mead won the first four matches for a 21-0 lead and won four more 6-pointers to hold off Shadle.
The Highlanders got wins from its veterans, including 190-pounder Sabino Hernandez, but Mead was generally too strong in the upper weights, winning six of eight matches between 141 and 275, including wins by veterans Lyle Beerbohm and Joel Edminster.
NC 45, LC 18
The Indians won eight straight matches for a 40-0 lead to cruise past the Tigers. Brian Largent at 141 and Casey Beville at 148 opened with two of five pins during the run, one in the first round the other late in the third. NC never looked back.
There were two thrillers, at 122 and 129, which were both decided in the matches’ final 30 seconds.
The Gonzaga Prep-Ferris match was unreported.