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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Greg Lee: A look back at state wrestling

West Valley’s Drake Ferguson, left, looks to get the leg of Blaine’s Caleb Frey duing their 2A 152 lb. title match at the State Wrestling Championships in Tacoma last Saturday. (Patrick Hagerty / Patrick Hagerty Special to The Spokesman-Review)

An interesting thing happened as Deer Park surged to capture the State 1A wrestling championship last weekend.

When the semifinals concluded at the Tacoma Dome, Colville appeared to have an insurmountable lead. But somebody forgot to tell Deer Park.

Eight Stags worked their way through the consolation bracket, earning bonus points for major decisions, technical falls and pins.

All of a sudden, late in the championship finals, Deer Park had clawed back from a double-digit deficit within 1.5 points.

And Deer Park had monster Trevor Eicher left at 220. All they needed was a simple victory.

Just like he did in sealing a state title when he won a state title as a sophomore, Eicher was victorious in impressive fashion, pinning in 1 minute, 30 seconds.

Colville could have made Eicher’s match moot. Earlier in the finals, the Indians’ TJ Baun, a returning state champ, suffered an elbow injury when he was slammed illegally to the mat with a second remaining in the second period.

Baun could have taken a victory by injury default and those points would have secured a state title. But he wouldn’t do it. He finished the match.

“TJ says ‘coach I’ll never lose that way and I don’t want to win it that way and I’m going to try and finish the match’,” Colville coach Randy Cloke said. “We’d been team champions and he’d been a state champion again. But that’s not the way we do it in Colville. Hats off to Deer Park. They had a great consolation round. They outworked us there.”

That speaks to a heart of a champion. A wrestler would rather have the honor of winning straight up than taking a victory any other way.

That’s part of what makes Mat Classic as good as it is from year to year.

Colville is young. The Indians will be back challenging next year.

“We had three state champs. Not a bad evening,” Cloke said.

While covering the tournaments, I talked with a friend who has seen more Mat Classics than yours truly.

“Without a doubt, this is the best state event,” he said.

I’ve only been making trips to WIAA state events since 2009. So I have a small sample size. Still, I would have to agree with my friend.

And that’s not to knock state basketball tourneys in Spokane, Tacoma and Yakima. Or Grid Iron Classic, the culmination of all classification finals. Or state track meets, especially the big-school meet at Mount Tahoma High in Tacoma.

It’s the atmosphere, it’s the passion, that strikes you at Mat Classic, which just closed the books on version XXVIII.

It’s 24 mats littering the Tacoma Dome floor that catches your attention right off the bat. Then circling the mats behind a rope are coaches and wrestlers – sometimes three to four deep – awaiting their matches.

Then come late Saturday afternoon, is the pageantry of the finals when 18 mats are removed and six are left for the best of 4A, 3A, 2A, 1A, B and girls.

Eastern Washington had 18 state champs, 37 finalists and 62 other placers. An impressive conglomeration of success, made all the more impressive considering it was a somewhat down year for the Greater Spokane League.

In the flurry of trying to note all the outcomes on each mat, I made a stupid error. I wrote in my 2A story for Sunday that Drake Ferguson of West Valley finished runner-up.

Well, Ferguson won a state title, winning 7-3 at 152 pounds.

I could explain how the mistake was made but it would be a hollow attempt at trying to justify my error. So to Drake I ask him to accept my apology.