DEMING - Mount Baker seniors Zach Larson and Tyrel Cronk had no trouble finding enough motivation to win their first Mount Baker/Justin Compton Invite wrestling titles.
Bellingham sophomore Riley Takemura, meanwhile, earlier this season found that losing weight was a lot less painful than losing matches.
As for Baker senior Sterling Honeycutt, all he knew was that he is now "something and one," meaning he is a much-improved 220-pound state meet veteran.
Honeycutt (11-1) pinned teammate Matt Scoles to cap a solid day for the Class 1A Mountaineers, who had three champions and three second-place medalists while finishing second to Class 3A Glacier Peak, which amassed 223 points in the 12-team event to Baker's 172.5 on Wednesday, Dec. 19.
Cronk and Larson felt winning at the tournament - renamed a few years ago in honor of the late former Baker standout Justin Compton - was a singular distinction. In fact, the feeling was even more special than they expected.
"To wear the Justin Compton singlet (passed down from a graduated senior) and to meet Justin's mom (Jill) was just a great honor," said Cronk (10-2 at 195 pounds), who decisioned Sultan's Jake Naslund 13-6 with a typically Cronk-like exhibition of all-out muscle and hustle. "This really feels good."
Cronk, who was seventh at state last year and competed there as a sophomore, wrapped up Baker's strong second-place finish along with Honeycutt's pin.
Larson (9-2), likewise, was his usual aggressive self while scoring his eighth pin of the season and third of the day. He nailed Aberdeen's Justin Berkley 50 seconds into the opening round after needing less than half a minute to take a 7-2 lead.
"Zach really wanted to win this tournament," Baker coach Ron Lepper said. "He's a pretty aggressive kid."
Larson agreed with his coach.
"I wanted to win this in memory of Justin Compton," said Larson. "I was inspired by Justin and his whole team of Mount Baker state champions when I was 5 or 6 years old and I was just starting to wrestle."
Larson was second in the Compton Invite last year and fifth as a sophomore. At state last year, he battled illness and went 0-2, but now seems to have legitimate hopes of a much better outcome.
Takemura, the third Takemura brother to wrestle at Bellingham, won by pin with 46 seconds remaining in the 113-pound title match against Sedro-Woolley's Gustavo Sanchez. Takemura rallied from a 3-2 deficit in the second round to take a 7-3 edge before ending the match.
"I started out 0-5 at 120 pounds this season, so I became very motivated to lose enough weight to wrestle at 113," said Takemura, who is now 4-2 at the lighter weight, including an 18-3 victory in his only other tournament match.
"My brothers (state medalists Michael and Nolan) have really been my motivation," said Riley, who gives Bellingham a Takemura for the ninth consecutive season. "I'd have to win a state title someday to top them (Nolan was runner-up last year)."
Bellingham coach Tom Hinz said he wouldn't be surprised to see Riley claim a state medal this season, especially if he can get down to 106 the way he and his coach are planning.
So which Takemura can claim to have the biggest heart?
"I have no idea," said Hinz, expertly playing the diplomat. "But Riley definitely has the heart of a great competitor. He just gets a little nervous sometimes. Maybe he thinks too hard."
Compton Invite runners-up Jeremiah Cronk, a freshman and Tyrel's cousin, had plenty to think about following a gutty 20-10 loss to Glacier Peak's John Kim in the 126-pound final. The same could be said about gritty 160-pound Nooksack Valley senior Tyler Warner, who gamely rallied from a 10-0 first-period deficit only to lose 13-10 to La Conner's Dahlton Zavala.
Both wrestlers heard a lot of cheers from their teammates for their sheer stubborn courage. Jeremiah Cronk displayed his potential while fighting off a bloody nose to finish his match. Warner (13-4) showed why he has Class 1A state medal hopes.
The other Whatcom County runners-up were Bellingham senior Patrick Anderson, who was pinned with 45 seconds remaining by Sultan's Jason Barruss, and Mount Baker junior Shelby Miles, who was pinned in the third round by Monroe's Christian Pridgeon.
Anderson three times scored two-point moves to pull within 7-6 in the third quarter before being pinned. He helped Bellingham finish sixth with 82.5 points.
MOUNT BAKER/JUSTIN COMPTON INVITE
Team scores: Glacier Peak 223, 2. Mount Baker 172.5, 3. Aberdeen 161.5, 4. Sultan 113, 5. Sedro-Woolley 87, 6. Bellingham 82.5, 7. Monroe 65.5, 8. Lakewood 55.0, 9. LaConner 53.5, 10. Nooksack Valley 43, 11. Darrington 35, 12. Friday Harbor 15.
Championship matches: 106 -- Mats Haneburg (GP) pinned Samir Mahmud (GP); 113 -- Riley Takemura (Bell) pinned Gustavo Sanchez (S-W) 5:14; 120 -- Christian Pridgeon (Monroe) pinned Shelby Miles (MB) 4:02; 126 -- John Kim (GP) dec. Jeremiah Cronk (Baker) 20-10; 132 -- Ethan Barr (GP) dec. Grant Bowley (Ab) 11-3; 138 -- Michael Mattituck (GP) dec. Billy Hornbeck (S-W) 7-4; 145 -- Zach Larson (MB) pinned Justin Berkley (Ab) 0:50; 152 -- Jason Barruss (Sul) 5:15; 160 -- Dahlton Zavala (LC) dec. Tyler Warner (NV) 13-10; 170 -- Tyler Sabin (GP) dec. James Boglivi (Sul) 6-3; 182 -- Sean Elledge (GP) dec. David Garcia (Ab) 15-7; 195 -- Tyrel Cronk (MB) dec. Jake Naslund (Sul) 13-6; Sterling Honeycutt (MB) pinned Matt Scoles (MB) 3:04; 285 -- Jaime Miranda (Ab) dec. Mosese Fifita (GP) 8-2.
Whatcom County third-place medalists: 132 -- Scott Tang (Bell); 160 -- Travis Lindsey (MB).