Montesano could have invited any patty-cake opponent to come play lamb to the slaughter for its Senior Night dual meet.
But playing patty-cakes has never been the Bulldogs’ style, so rather than compete against a proverbial doormat, the Bulldogs invited the Harbor’s other boys wrestling powerhouse — the Aberdeen Bobcats.
Aberdeen and Monte jostled through 14 competitive and crowd-pleasing matchups, with Bobcats heavyweight Paul Baltazar earning a pinfall win in the meet’s final match to secure a 45-33 victory on Wednesday in Montesano.
“We won all the matches we were supposed to win and the boys wrestled well,” Aberdeen head coach Jeff Hatton said. “We’ve been looking to get this match scheduled for a few years and I’m happy that we could finally make it happen.”
Aberdeen got off to a hot start, dominating the lower-weight classes to jump out to a 30-0 lead after the first five matches.
John Prentice (106), Talatheon Warness (113), Tyler Caskey (120), Michael Hatton (126) and Jack Dore (132) each won via pinfall to earn six points apiece for the Bobcats.
As good as Aberdeen was in the lower weights, Monte was equally as solid in the middle weights.
Monte won three of the next four matches, with 1A state-finalist Cole Ekerson (138) and Sean Ryker (145) winning via pinfall and — after Aberdeen’s Aiden Watkins won via pinfall in the 152-pound match — Monte’s Kaleb Ames (160) shutout Aberdeen’s Jacob Allison 4-0 to close the gap to 36-15.
In arguably the most thrilling match of the dual, Aberdeen’s Erick Silviera trailed 4-3 in the third round against Montesano’s Gabe Pyhala before a flurry of points from both wrestlers ended in an 8-6 Silviera win in the 170-pound class and a 39-15 lead for the Bobcats.
But Monte won the next three matches, with state-finalist Mateo Sanchez (182), Felix Romero (195) and Logan Roberts (220) all earning key pinfall victories to put Monte down six heading into the final match.
“I’m feeling pretty good,” said Sanchez, who is a favorite to make the 1A State 182 final again this season. “League duals are two weekends away and I’m looking forward to postseason. … We are upping our conditioning, practices are getting more intense and guys are starting to battle harder up in the (wrestling) room, which is good, we need that competition. By the time we get into the postseason, we should be peaking.”
In the 285-pound match, Baltazar was up 10-3 before pinning Jesse Cervantes to secure the victory for the Bobcats.
“I just wanted to come out with a victory,” said Baltazar, who was competing in his first match back after attending a football camp. “I kind of worked on some things that didn’t work and had to do some other things just to get back to wrestling. … I’m just happy I came back and that this is what I came back to.”
While beating Montesano at Bo Griffith Memorial Gym on Senior Night is no easy feat, the true purpose of the dual for Aberdeen was to face top competition heading into the home stretch of the season.
“Monte has a great program and has been the team to beat in the Harbor for a decade now, and that has been the main reason why I wanted to wrestle them,” Coach Hatton said. “We get to prove that we too are a force to be reckoned with. I’m glad we were able to wrestle them and I’m glad it was a nice, close battle the way it was.”
Monte head coach Jeff Klinger echoed that sentiment, stating that facing a deep team like Aberdeen only helps make his wrestlers better.
“We had a full lineup and in my 20 years here, we’ve had that maybe two other times. We’ve always had a few holes. Single A schools, it’s kind of hard to get 14 weights and you spread your kids out in a lot of cases,” he said. “We knew Aberdeen was the only other (local) team that had a full roster as well, so let’s get everybody a match, try to make it a show and have fun.”
Monte honored seniors Sean Ryker, Cole Ekerson, Mateo Sanchez, Kaleb Ames, Jesse Hollatz, Jesse Cervantes, Jessan Stolen and girls wrestlers Samantha Darrin and Graycen Grinols on Senior night.
But aside from that, Monte is on the young side, with several freshman in the varsity lineup on Wednesday.
The dual meet was the perfect chance to gain valuable mat-time experience for some of the younger Bulldogs.
“We have a lot of young guys and a lot of first-year freshman wrestlers,” Sanchez said. “(Aberdeen) has some pretty good kids at the smaller weight classes. (The dual) was like a measurement thing for us. It’s not like we needed a win. We’re worried about winning in the postseason and not right now.”
“We’re young and we wanted to have a challenge. … We wanted to make sure we had somebody to push them,” Klinger said. “(Aberdeen’s) lower weights are awesome. They won the first five matches and that is a tough thing to overcome, but we almost did.”
The atmosphere itself was a raucous one, with crowds from both schools filling the gym, roaring and cheering throughout the event.
“It’s always great to play any sport in your hometown, and for wrestling you only get so many in one season,” Sanchez said. “The atmosphere was great. … I loved it. All my family, friends, everyone showed up. It was pretty cool.”
“We wanted to send the seniors off right at home,” Klinger said. “It doesn’t get any better of an atmosphere. … It was a great dual, it came down to the last match to decide it and I couldn’t ask for anything more than that.”
106 pounds: John Prentice (Aberdeen) won via fall over Zane Dillard (Montesano), 4:54.
113: Talatheon Warness (A) won via fall over Jesse Hollatz (M), 1:33.
120: Tyler Caskey (A) won via fall over Kaden Stott (M), 1:26.
126: Michael Hatton (A) won via fall over Kole Kiesbu (M), 3:34.
132: Jack Dore (A) won via fall over Ayden Phiangdae (M), 0:29.
138: Cole Ekerson (M) won via fall over Michael Leontyev (A), 4:34.
145: Sean Ryker (M) won via fall over Tristan Walker (A), 0:52.
152: Aiden Watkins (A) won via fall over Gage Stutesman, 4:33.
160: Kaleb Ames (M) won via decision over Jacob Allison (A), 4-0.
170: Erick Silviera (A) won via decision over Gabe Pyhalla (M), 8-6.
182: Mateo Sanchez (M) won via fall over Isaac Cisneros (A), 1:22.
195: Felix Romero (M) won via fall over Joshua Shoberg (A), 1:07.
220: Logan Roberts (M) won via fall over Landon Hamblin (A), 3:15.
285: Paul Baltazar (A) won vial fall over Jesse Cervantes (M), 5:28.