Greater Spokane League wrestling this year figures to be a six-team war. What better way for it to begin than with a match between last year’s top two finishers, University against North Central.
The contest Wednesday night at U-Hi included two bouts featuring four of the state’s best wrestlers.
But it was typical chess mastery by Titans coach Don Owen that factored heavily in the Titans’ 45-24 victory.
At 125 pounds, NC state runner-up Jared Berlinger squeezed out a 1-0 victory over close friend and state placer Brandon Matlock in a harbinger of things to come.
“I think it was pretty exciting, just because we’ve wrestled together all four years,” said Berlinger, who won on third-period escape.
In the anticlimactic final match of the night, state fourth-placer Dustin Johnson pulled out a 4-1 215-pound decision over Indians state runner-up Anthony Whitmarsh. The ultimate decider was Johnson’s takedown with time running out in the first period.
Of the first nine matches eight of them were six-pointers, and U-Hi led 30-21.
Titans senior Trevin Hiebert then won a pivotal contest at 152 pounds, hanging on for dear life at the end of a 7-5 decision.
Titans wrestlers had bumped up in weight all night long, but none was more telling than the moves from 160 through 189 pounds, where NC had potential for victories.
It began with sophomore Adrian Orndorff, typically a 145-pounder, who hung tough in an overtime loss. Jacob Patshkowski jumped to 171 and clinched the contest with a pin by rolling through a cradle attempt while leading just 2-1 in the second round.
“I wanted him at 160, but the match was still in jeopardy,” Owen said.
Jacob Fry, up to 189, won 10-5 over Sam Rykken in the prelude to Johnson’s match-ender.
“That was a good match,” Owen said of Fry’s effort. “He’s such a great competitor and works harder and harder as the match goes on.”
Owen downplayed his role in the moves upward of more than half his lineup, saying he didn’t know NC’s lineup well and it came more out of necessity.
“It’s so early in the year, it’s hard getting them tapered (down in weight) where we want them,” he said.
Despite the setback, NC coach Luke Leifer was pleased with his team’s effort, although he decried having to meet U-Hi in a GSL season opener for the second straight year.
“They had weights in the middle with kids new to varsity and we were hoping to catch them,” said NC coach Luke Leifer.
But the Titans pulled through.
• In another key early-season match, Central Valley made a winner of rookie coach Tommy Owen in his debut, 36-28 at Mead. The Bears built a 27-6 lead with six wins in the first seven matches, including by freshmen Carson Graham and Colton Orrino and veterans Logan Ames and Jarod Maynes. Mead defending state champion Jeremy Goulding edged state placer Brenton Beard in overtime at 135. … Also, visiting Lewis and Clark routed Gonzaga Prep 66-3 with four close decisions and lots of late pins. … Host Mt. Spokane romped past Rogers 61-5. … Ferris at Shadle Park was postponed.