POULSBO — The first battle between Cougars and Vikings on the wrestling mats was a hard-fought fight to the finish but when the dust cleared, it was Central that walked away victorious.
CK’s 39-25 win was also the first time NK coach Jon Cooke and Central Coach Mike Harter faced off, as both coaches work out the quirks in their first seasons as head coach.
“CK is young but they have some good wrestlers,” Cooke said. “We were facing some good leadership out there.”
“This is a vastly improved NK team,” Harter said. “It’s obvious they have the right coach here. These guys don’t give an inch.”
The teams began the night with a double-forfeit at the 119 lbs. division.
At 125 lbs., CK’s Ryan Nunez was able to beat Viking Kyle Cetnarowski with a pinfall late in the third period. At 130 lbs. Cougar Jomer Calma never really let NK’s Lee Rapp into the match, pinning the Viking in the third.
CK’s Kevin Manalo got disqualified in his 135 lbs. match against North’s Tim Beckwith, after picking Beckwith up off the mat and slamming him in a move reminiscent to a WWE body-slam.
The Vikes picked up a technical win at 140 lbs. when Jerrell Smith took Cougar Jeff Melin the distance with an 8-2 win.
With CK up by 3 at the 145 lbs. match, Cougar Connor Huntly and Viking Danny Harris knew their match could make for a shift in either team’s momentum. By the start of the third, Harris held a narrow lead, 7-6. But Huntly used his technical prowess to overcome Harris, winning with a pinfall to give CK an edge.
At 152 lbs., North’s Doug Piehl, who hasn’t lost a match yet this season, had no trouble dispensing JoJo Lancaster, winning with a pin in the first.
From there, Central would step up in the higher weight classes, using a superior technical ability. At 160 lbs., CK’s Tyler Cowgill won by pinfall over North’s Will Rapp in the third. At 171 lbs., Cougar John Winsper took down Curtis Travelstead with a pin in the second.
At 189 lbs., Central’s Peter Burgos won by pinfall over Viking Brian Newcomb and at 215 lbs. and NK’s Mike Storey lost to Scott Jennings in an 8-2 technical decision.
“We’re seeing better execution and everyone’s showing heart,” Harter said.
Cooke said it was the moves, not the effort, that propelled CK through the heart of the matches.
“We’re still working on technique,” Cooke said. “We have to get ready for any of the hook-and-roll stuff.”
In the final match of the evening at the 113 lbs. division, North’s Matt Grimes would not be denied, even in the Vikings’ overall loss, beating Cougar Andrew Ginnetti 12-3 for a technical victory. Like Piehl, Grimes has also not dropped a match on the season.
“(Piehl) and Grimes are out there battling every match,” Cooke said. “What we need the rest of the guys to do.”
Harter said he believes hard work paid off for CK in a match where his grapplers had to make many adjustments.
“We bumped a whole bunch of guys up (to fill weight classes),” Harter said. “Some of our guys were outmatched but some of them stepped up.”
It comes down to the weakest link for North, Cooke commented.
“Our bottom wrestling kids need confidence — they can’t always look for the lucky roll,” he said.
But Mike Derda, North’s assistant coach, was optimistic about a re-match between the two teams.
“When we meet up at districts, it will be a whole different story,” Derda said.