Ryan Gabel’s second-period pin at 125 pounds Thursday capped a stirring 37-30 comeback victory from a 20-point deficit and lifted University (8-0) past visiting Mead and into next week’s Battle of the Bone at Central Valley (also 8-0) for the Greater Spokane League wrestling championship.
“I like the pressure on me,” said Gabel, a sophomore. “I feel I perform better.”
There was pressure aplenty on U-Hi after the bout order was determined, starting at 130, and Mead won the coin toss to settle which team would send its wrestlers out first, in the odd or even matches.
Both coaches, U-Hi’s Don Owen and Mead’s Phil McLean, predicted each team would win seven of 14 individual matches, which they did.
“I told the guys it would be decided on bonus points,” Owen said.
That was the case, as U-Hi finished with five pins and a major decision worth 16 extra points.
Mead (6-2) had two pins, a technical fall and major worth nine points, and could have had one or two points more, although not enough, at 145. Jeff Hawk-Robinson led 13-0, but when he cut Matt Fry looking for more, he wound up on his back as narrowly avoided a pin as time ran out.
Owen had wanted to avoid matchups there and at 135, but had to send his wrestlers out first and couldn’t.
Hawk-Robinson’s was one of six straight wins – after U-Hi’s Brandon Byers began the night with a pin of Andrew Bassinger – that staked the Panthers to a 26-6 lead.
“That 130-pound match was really pivotal,” Owen said. “Bassinger wrestled well at the Rocky Mountain (tournament) and Byers had not been at his best. He got after it right away.”
U-Hi later duplicated Mead’s feat with six wins in the final seven to complete the rally.
Jake Fry (189), Dustin Johnson (215) and Jake Laden (285) all bumped up a weight and won, the latter two with pins, to cut the deficit to 26-21.
“That was a tough assignment for Fry going up and giving up almost 20 pounds,” Owen said. “He really wrestled hard.”
The Titans won the final three matches – 112, 119 and 125 – by major decision and two pins to set up next week’s showdown at CV.
Owen warned that people should get to the title-deciding match early for the anticipated sellout.
“We had three shots at extra points and didn’t cash in on them,” McLean said. “But it’s all good. It was a fun dual.”
• In other GSL matches, CV tuned up for the showdown between district rivals with a 47-25 win at Rogers (0-8). The match was tied after Rogers’ Chris Douglas nipped Roger Ulrich 7-6 at 119, but the Bears won the final four, three by pin. … Host Shadle Park (4-4) topped Gonzaga Prep (0-8) 54-21, winning six matches by forfeit. … North Central (5-3) built a 40-6 lead en route to a 52-21 win over visiting Ferris (3-5). The Saxons’ only win in the first nine matches came on Caleb Richardson’s pin at 119. … On senior night at Mt. Spokane, all the seniors won at the Wildcats (5-3) defeated Lewis and Clark (2-6) 47-15.
Deer Park (5-0) remained perfect with a 59-21 win over visiting Cheney (2-2), although the Blackhawks got a couple of big individual wins, including Hunter Peterson’s pin of Jake Konzal at 119 when trailing 6-0. The Stags’ Joe Grable bumped up a weight and beat Cheney state placer Logan Huckins. … East Valley (4-1) won all but one match in a 63-3 romp past visiting Pullman (0-5). … Visiting Clarkston (2-2) started with four pins (among 10 by both teams combined) and beat West Valley (2-3) 46-33. Clarkston’s John Strickland (152) and Chase Waller (215) were trailing in their matches before winning by pin.