TACOMA – For those who have watched Shorewood senior Matthew Floresca, there’s no doubt he has put in the work. It’s clear he deserves to garner the title of state wrestling champion.
Floresca is worthy. But if the Thunderbirds’ 126-pounder gets it done, it won’t be without a close call.
Floresca survived a gut-wrenching 4-3 victory in four overtimes over Lakes’ Andrew Ramirez in a Class 3A state quarterfinal, narrowly advancing to the semifinals at Mat Classic XXVI on Friday in the Tacoma Dome.
“That was a lot of work,” said Floresca, smiling afterward, knowing he dodged an upset and derailment of his title dreams. “Going in as a No. 1 seed, I’d say I went in a little overconfident. I thought I’d get it done quick in the first round and he gave me a better match than I thought he would.”
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Floresca, who was second at 126 pounds as a junior in 3A, trailed 3-2 before he scored a tying escape with 15 seconds left in the third overtime. Then, in the fourth overtime, he had the choice and chose down, stood up to score an escape in 4.5 seconds of the fourth OT for the 4-3 triumph.
Floresca, who fell 3-0 to three-time state champ Josh Newberg of Kelso in the last year’s final, improved to 33-1 this season — and 123-9 for his career — after clearing a very tough hurdle. The top-ranked wrestler at 126 nearly fell to the fourth-ranked wrestler.
It was Floresca’s first look at Ramirez.
“Since (Floresca) had beaten almost everyone else in his weight class, (Ramirez) was the one unknown,” Shorewood assistant coach Matt Krier said. “And he’s a tough kid.”
Decatur, as a team, doesn’t want a repeat of coming out on the losing end of a close call, like last season. The Gators are seeking the school’s first team title in wrestling and lead the team race 62-50.5 over North Central of Spokane. Mount Spokane is third with 48.5 and University of Spokane fourth with 43.
“The kids are battling and we’re in good position,” Decatur coach Mike Bressler said. “I’d feel a lot better if my 145-pounder Dennis Good didn’t go out. He had a tough loss.”
Decatur, top-ranked in Class 3A, got off to great start with three quarterfinal wins over opponents from Mount Spokane, one of the Gators’ top title threats and the co-No. 2 in 3A.
Sophomore Leviticus Arizpe was workmanlike in reaching the semifinals at 126 in 3A, improving to 39-1. Arizpe controlled and pinned Bishop Blanchet’s Jacob O’Donnell in 3:17 before dominating Mount Spokane’s Kiegen Schauer 9-0 in the quarterfinals.
The Gators left the tournament last year feeling the sting of coming up four points shy of University of Spokane 142.5-138.5 for the 3A team crown. It added fuel to the fire this season.
“All today means is that we’re one step closer,” Arizpe said. “Hopefully, we take it. Our coach (Bressler) has been pushing us all year. He’s been telling us we have the potential and it’s really in our heads.”
Decatur advanced four wrestlers into the semifinals and kept seven of 11 wrestlers alive for a placing after the first day.
Reaching the semis for the Gators were Trysten Dawson (120), Arizpe (126), Zach Berry (132) and Isaiah Diggs (138).
Arizpe, ranked No. 3 in 3A at 126, faces University of Spokane sophomore Cam Sorensen in the semifinals. Sorensen, No. 2 in 3A at 126, was second at 113 last season. Diggs faces North Central freshman Bryan Wais in the semis and that could factor heavily into the team race between the two schools.
“That kid (Sorensen) is the real deal, and he’s a cradling machine,” Bressler said. “We have to stay out of that guy’s cradle, that’s for sure. I don’t ever count out Leviticus, because he’ll never stop. That being said, I think all my guys have a shot at winning a title.”
Battling fractured bones in his spine, Bellevue junior Christian Villani eked into the 3A semifinals at 145 with a 6-5 decision over Bonney Lake senior Caid Caveness.
Villani (26-1) won the 132 class in 3A last season to become school’s first individual titlist in 36 years. He didn’t quite look himself Friday and narrowly avoided a winning Caveness’ takedown as the referee ruled it came after time expired.
“He’s very beat up,” said Bellevue co-head coach Kyle Smith of Villani, who missed the first month and a half of the season with the back issue. “He has some small fractures in his back. It’s a common injury with gymnasts and wrestlers. This week, he feels good.”
Villani, ranked No. 1 in 3A at 145, wasn’t sharp as he’ll need to be on Saturday to repeat as a champion. It all came back to sitting out last week’s final with the bad back and settling for second at regionals.
“He’s just a fighter,” Smith said. “I him this would be his toughest match. I thought that kid if he was on the other side of the bracket, he’d be in the finals.
“We had a game plan and for the first time in two years, I didn’t see him stick to it. I’ve never seen him wrestle like that. I know what he can do, so I, as a coach, am not worried. I believe in him.”
• A pair of pins at 170 pounds in 2A has Kingston senior Bobby Reece on the cusp of joining an elite state club.
Reece inched two wins from becoming the state’s 11th male wrestler to bring home four state titles. The Buccaneers’ standout pinned Lake Washington’s Eduard Kravchuk in 1:10 and then dispatched Cheney’s Josh Wessels in 3:34.
Reece hiked his records to 34-1 this season and 147-2 for his career. …
Kiona-Benton senior Cruz Del Angel extended what is believed a state-record win streak to 114 matches by posting two dominating wins at 182 pounds in 1A. Those victories moved Del Angel two wins away from scoring his third consecutive state title after taking 182 in 1A in 2013 and 170 in 1A in 2012.
Del Angel, now 38-0 this season, put up a pin in 1:07 and a 20-4 technical fall win. … Orting junior Fred Green worked for a pair of wins at 126 pounds in 2A to qualify for the semifinals. Green (34-3) is two wins from becoming a three-time state champion.
Green won 113 in 2A as a sophomore and 106 in 1A as a freshman. …
Mountain View of Vancouver’s Benjamin Dixon knocked defending state champion Hector Romero of Sunnyside out of title contention with 4-3 decision over last year’s 3A state champ at 106. Dixon beat Romero in the quarterfinal round. …
Mercer Island junior Taylan Yuasa, eighth at 106 last season in 3A, advanced to the semifinals at 113 with a pair of wins, including an 18-5 major decision over Tyler Almaguer of Kamiakin in the quarterfinal round. …
Liberty of Issaquah junior Conner Small moved into the semifinals at 160 in 3A with a pair of dominating wins. Small opened with a 15-0 technical fall over Bainbridge’s Joaquin Gurza and with a subsequent quarterfinal pin in 4:42 over John Fairbanks of University of Spokane. …
Meadowdale senior Ciaran Ball scored a pair of quick pins to reach the 195 semifinals in 3A. Ball took down Decatur’s Max Henry in 2:38 and then stuck Mount Si’s Andrew Harris in 33 seconds in the quarterfinals. Ball is 33-1 with 25 pins this season. …
Eastside Catholic junior Matthew Iwicki won’t be a repeat state champion.
Iwicki, the state champ at 120 in 3A last season, fell to Kelso’s Tyler Wicken 6-1 in the quarterfinals of 132. Wicken was the runner-up at 132 last season. …
The bid for back-to-back state titles for Raymond’s Hunter Borden ended with a semifinal loss at 182 in 1B/2B. Borden took first at 182 last season. …
Liberty Bell’s Trent Skelton is poised to follow up his 106-pound title in 1B/2B at 120 as he reached the final with two pins.