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Friday, February 28, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Titans stand tall with 1st mat title


Cory Fish of University jumps into the arms of his coaches, including head coach Don Owen, left, after winning the State 4A title at 119 pounds in the Tacoma Dome. 
 (Christopher Anderson/ / The Spokesman-Review)
Cory Fish of University jumps into the arms of his coaches, including head coach Don Owen, left, after winning the State 4A title at 119 pounds in the Tacoma Dome. (Christopher Anderson/ / The Spokesman-Review)

TACOMA – University senior Cory Fish and freshman Brian Owen have experienced considerable personal successes. But both said they had never experienced a feeling quite like this.

Individual state championships by the most senior and the youngest member of the Titans’ wrestling team Saturday put the topper on U-Hi’s first State 4A team championship at Mat Classic XVII.

“It’s a great night tonight,” said Fish, who completed his career and a 38-1 season with his second straight title. “I’ve never been a part of anything this big before.”

Using a move dubbed the “Pigdog Stretch” in U-Hi’s wrestling room – a leg ride and power half-nelson – Fish pinned previously unbeaten Shane Martin of Olympia at 119 pounds to secure U-Hi’s 135th point and a victory over Lake Stevens for the team title.

“I didn’t know anything about this kid,” said Fish, “but I knew he was pretty good.”

Two matches earlier, the 103-pound Owen dispatched fellow frosh Matt Sencenbaugh of Auburn 12-4 with a series of takedown moves and a reversal.

Like Fish, Owen said he’d never seen his opponent before.

“I kind of did what I could and was careful on the top,” he said.

But Owen couldn’t hide the delight he had in clinching the school’s first title and the Greater Spokane League’s sixth.

“This is unexplainable,” said Owen, whose major decision had clinched U-Hi’s title. “I’ve been waiting for this my whole life. It’s one of the funnest things I’ve done. I’m too happy to talk right now.”

Owen made a happy man of his uncle, Don, and dad, John, leaping into both their arms after his win for a congratulatory hug.

After more than 20 years in coaching, Don Owen finally felt the euphoria of his first team title.

“These are magical moments,” said Owen. “The good Lord has been good to me. The bad thing about this for me is wondering if I can have this feeling again.”

The night became doubly good for John Owen, coach of Central Valley, after his junior 125-pounder Lucas Chesher capped an incredible run through a rugged class for his first state title.

“It was not easy for Luke,” Owen said. “He was not predicted to win this thing, but he beats a state (finalist) in the quarterfinals. He was not supposed to win district or regional, either.”

Chesher beat last year’s state runner-up Tyler Bowles 5-4 in Friday’s quarters, won his morning semifinal and beat Kentwood’s Jarrett Thomalin 3-0 in the title match.

“I knew I could get back here and do better than last year,” Chesher said. “I didn’t know how good. I think it was just a matter of wrestling hard and not relaxing in matches.”

The Titans’ duo and Chesher were this year’s State 4A GSL champions out of four finalists.

The fourth finalist, defending 140-pound winner Kyle Yonago of Ferris, could not repeat. He was beaten 3-0 by Auburn’s rugged Kurt Swartz.

U-Hi’s team championship was a product of the sum of its parts and a culmination of a special season that included division, league, district and regional titles and several invitational team championships.

Early in the year, the Titans tied Lake Stevens for the Tri-State tourney and it was then that expectations for a State 4A championship showdown were sown.

Ten U-Hi state qualifiers scored points and nine placed. Besides the titlists, Chase Fish and Jeremy Montang bounced back from losses – Montang’s coming to Swartz in the quarters – and finished third.

The Titans had a fourth place, two sixths and two sevenths to outdistance Lake Stevens by 17 points.

“To be honest, I didn’t know if I’d ever coach a championship team,” said Owen. “But this team was something special. I could sense it from day one.”

Region IV (the GSL and Big Nine Conference) had 27 placers out of 16 entrants and the GSL had 19 of those placing among the top eight.

Fish was one of three 4A wrestlers to repeat as champion.

“I tell you what,” Don Owen said. “I’m so proud of Cory. He’s done a lot for the program and has elevated us to this level.”

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