BELLINGHAM - Squalicum finished its regular season perfect in Northwest Conference duals, though its final showing wasn't as flawless as its record.
"It's great to give the seniors a win on senior night," Squalicum wrestling coach Russ Robinson said. "Especially against our cross-town rival, it was nice to get the win. It wasn't really the way we wanted to get it, but nonetheless we got the win."
Bellingham won six matches to Squalicum's four, but the Storm benefited from three Red Raiders forfeits to earn a 36-33 NWC dual win Wednesday, Jan. 23, at Squalicum High School.
The Storm (5-1, 4-0 NWC) earned the right to be named city champs after beating Sehome 43-29 Jan. 16, but Robinson is more concerned about getting his side ready for the postseason than bragging rights.
"It's great to win a dual every time, but for me it's all about the postseason and getting the kids ready for state," he said. "All the duals are just steps in that. That's what we've preached, win-loss, as long as we are getting better and getting prepared for state, that's really what we care about."
Storm 106-pounder Josh Pratt and 182-pounder Kyle Stallo pinned their opponents, and Jobe Ashby and Carlos Nunez won by decision.
Nunez's improvement came to a pinnacle during his come-from-behind 8-7 decision against Bellingham's Alden Roberts.
Robinson said Nunez, who is a senior and first-year wrestler, made his varsity debut last weekend during the Lynden Tournament after Squalicum decided to compete at the last minute.
"They called us Friday and said, 'Hey, you want to wrestle?' I said all my guys are out, but I'll throw some JV guys in there. Carlos surprised us and got the win, and he almost got into the third- or fifth-place matches, so he earned his spot tonight. It was a close match, but he came out with a win."
Trailing 6-1 in the final 20 seconds of the second period, Nunez scored a two-point takedown followed by a three-point near fall to tie the score as the buzzer sounded.
Nunez took an 8-6 lead after scoring a two-point reversal with 1:25 left in the match. Roberts cut the lead to 8-7 with an escape 20 seconds later, but Nunez prevented Roberts from scoring again in the final minute.
"It feels shocking, honestly." Nunez admitted. "It was a tough battle. The guy was pretty hard. I ended up down in the second round but pulled it together at the end of the second round and came out on top, but it was difficult."
The win was one of four matches that came down to the final seconds. Unfortunately for Squalicum, the other three went Bellingham's way.
Red Raiders' Riley Takemura (113 pounds) earned a 4-2 overtime decision against Spencer Wallace, Sergio Torres (132) held off a valiant comeback effort by Trenton Hogue to win 9-7 and Blair Bennett (160) scored an overtime takedown to beat Josh Ewing 10-8 in a match featuring six lead changes.
Austin Bavaro (138), Patrick Anderson (152) and Dylan Hanson (285) earned pins for the Red Raiders. Bavaro's occurred 54 seconds into his match, and Anderson needed only 14 seconds for his pin. Hanson's pin against Patrick Schjelderup 2:39 in was arguably the most impressive given Hanson placed fourth and Schjelderup finished second at the Northwest Conference Tournament two weekends ago.
Regardless of the way Squalicum won, Robinson said Pratt, Anthony Krause, Ashby, Cooper Stach, Zach Wallace and Aaron Saunders appear ready for a strong postseason run.
Nunez is certainly optimistic about the Storm's chances.
"We have a pretty strong team this year," he said. "I think it's going to be quite a ride."
Reach Andrew Lang at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 360-756-2862.
SQUALICUM 36, BELLINGHAM 33
106: Josh Pratt (Squalicum) pin Dewald Olivier (Bellingham 0:51. 113: Riley Takemura (Bellingham) dec. Spencer Wallace (Squalicum) 4-2 (OT). 120: Luke Jordan (Squalicum) forfeit. 126: Jobe Ashby (Squalicum) dec. Scott Tang (Bellingham) 6-1. 132: Sergio Torres (Bellingham) dec. Trenton Hogue (Squalicum) 9-7. 138: Austin Bavaro (Bellingham) pin Jacob Burgoon (Squalicum) 0:54. 145: Carlos Nunez (Squalicum) dec. Alden Roberts (Bellingham) 8-7. 152: Patrick Anderson (Bellingham) pin Riley Zehnder (Squalicum) 0:14. 160: Blair Bennett (Bellingham) dec. Josh Ewing (Squalicum) 10-8 (OT). 170: Aaron Saunders (Squalicum) forfeit. 182: Kyle Stallo (Squalicum) pin David Burnham (Bellingham) 1:16. 195: Spencer Marshall (Bellingham) forfeit. 220: Shea Bleil (Squalicum) forfeit. 285: Dylan Hanson (Bellingham) pin Patrick Schjelderup 2:39.
Reach ANDREW LANG at email@example.com or call ext. 862.