A chance conversation prior to the start of the wrestling season resulted in a schedule-filling holiday dual match between programs that define their respective classifications in the sport for the Spokane area.
Thursday night’s action between defending State 4A champion University and three-time 2A champs Deer Park, in front of a sizeable and knowledgeable crowd, did not disappoint.
The host Titans prevailed 34-28 – Deer Park’s first dual loss in four years – in a contest that featured state veterans at every weight class but 103 pounds, and came down to head-to-head contests at 112 and 119 between state placers.
It was decided on Tyler Clark’s primal instinct to survive.
Clark, a senior and third at 112 in State 4A last year, came off his back against Jake Konzal, 2A champion at 103 as a freshman, for a pin with a minute remaining.
“When I got rolled over I couldn’t gratify him with that win,” Clark said. “It was all strength. I couldn’t (use) any technique from that, I just lifted him up.”
Clark was ahead 4-3 when Konzal turned him in the third period and nearly ended the pivotal contest. But Clark somehow muscled his way for the fall.
“Tyler is such a powerful guy,” said Titans coach Don Owen. “He was on his back in (an arm) bar and was able to bridge and come through in a way a normal kid can’t.”
Deer Park coach Matt Jorgensen agreed.
“He’s a great kid and that was a big swing,” Jorgensen said.
Brandon Matlock, eighth in state at 112 a year ago, followed with a 6-1 win over Cole Harris, second to Konzal last year as a freshman, that put the Titans ahead 31-18 and in good shape with four matches remaining.
“Those guys are in good shape,” Owen said. “We usually tire people out, but we got beat in the third period in a couple matches.”
Titans assistant Dave Orndorff had proposed the dual between two programs that have become the envy of their peers. Jorgensen said he canceled a match with a team in Utah for the chance to face the Titans.
“We wanted a challenge,” he said. “We wanted a good matchup and I think it was good for both of us.”
The coaches didn’t know whether U-Hi and Deer Park had met before, but it certainly hasn’t been during their tenures, which for Owen goes back two decades.
“It was a good event, a lot of wrestling fans came out to watch and we put on a good show,” he said. “The beauty of the sport of wrestling is there are no pretenders. I know they have a good team, we asked if they wanted to dual us and they did. We knew it was going to be two good teams hooking up to wrestle.”
Returning state third placer Dylan Miller was happy for the chance to meet U-Hi and helped stake Deer Park to a 12-0 lead with a pin in an early pivotal contest.
“I’ve been looking forward to this match the whole year,” he said. “This is the one. We’re not intimidated or anything. I’m just glad we’re getting to do it.”
The state powers split the first eight matches heading into the two decisive contests, although U-Hi had a little wiggle room, leading 22-18 because of pins advantage.
They would finish with seven individual wins apiece. DP won the first three and last three beginning at 145. In between U-Hi won seven of eight contests, four by pins, to build its lead.
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