With just four weeks remaining before the end of the regular season, University wrestling coach Don Owen is starting to see things come into place for his Titans.
Led by four wrestlers who won championships at their respective weight classes, the host Titans tore through the competition at the Pacific Northwest Classic, tallying eight placers and scoring 208 points to earn the team title Saturday at U-Hi.
Helping make the final push for the Titans was the senior trio of Jacob Fry (171 pounds), Dustin Johnson (189) and Jake Laden (215), who won three consecutive finals matches to put U-Hi well out of reach of second-place Glacier (Mont.), which tallied 174.
“We’re getting a really good effort from all of our upper weights,” Owen said. “Jacob Fry won his finals match by good conditioning and just coming and coming. … Dustin Johnson was a man among boys. He’s dominating competition.”
Fry beat North Central’s Sam Rykken with a third-round pin in 5:23, weathering an early takedown to come back for the second time this season against Rykken.
“It was extremely exciting to see him get a pin in the finals against a really tough kid,” Johnson said of Fry’s comeback win. “They had a pretty good match earlier this season in our dual and to see him get the pin – that was great.”
Johnson followed suit with a dominant 8-2 decision against Shadle Park’s Dylan Lemery. In his four matches over the weekend, Johnson earned three first-round pins and the 8-2 decision in the title match.
Owen said the 215-pound class was possibly the toughest of the tourney. Laden bested NC’s Anthony Whitmarsh 12-2 in his title match. Laden advanced to the championship with a 3-1 decision against Lakeside’s Dallas Watkins.
“I think our top guys really came through,” Johnson said. “Any team that can put six guys in the finals is doing well in any tournament. And I’m proud of our younger guys who battled back and won through the back door.”
Lakeside’s Eagles, who finished seventh, handed U-Hi one of its two finals losses, as 119-pounder Michael Baumgarden recorded a takedown with less than a minute remaining to beat Brandon Matlock 4-2. The win secured Baumgarden the tourney’s Outstanding Wrester award.
Central Valley used three individual champions to jump into third place, finishing with 159 points. Joining Jarod Maynes and Brenton Beard atop the podium for the Bears was Tanner Davis, who made the finals for the first time in his high school career.
“My very first thought going into this match was that this was my first final and I’d be happy either way,” said Davis, who pinned Shadle’s Luke Miller in 5:52. “After I wrestled the first round, I knew I could stay with him. And once we got to the last round, I knew with all the conditioning I’ve been doing, I could beat him.”
Davis, a sophomore for the Bears, said the strides his teammates have made this year are from the hard work of the new coaching staff, led by head coach Tom Owen.
“Everyone loves Tommy,” Davis said. “When you see him out in a wrestling environment, he’s always pumped up. In the wrestling room he can be the nicest coach ever and he can also be the one that when you go to practice, you don’t want him running it. But it all pays off in the end.”
Conditioning has been a major sticking point for the Bears, according to Davis, and that point was driven home by two last-minute victories for the Bears in the championship round.
In addition to Davis earning a pin in the sixth minute, Beard won his match with a takedown in the final seconds against NC’s Jared Berlinger in the 130-pound final.