EVERETT — The “Rocky” theme song should have played during the South Whidbey-Archbishop Murphy wrestling match Thursday.
Six of South Whidbey’s matches went at least three periods, five of which the Falcons won for a 39-22 team victory. And none was more grueling or lengthy as the triple overtime 160-pound bout, which set the gut-it-out, all-hustle attitude for the Falcons.
“By the end of the third period, it was awful,” said Falcon junior James Itaya. “I didn’t know if I could make it to overtime.”
Itaya scored a 1-point escape in the final seconds of the third period that forced an extra round. In the minute-long fourth period, Itaya and his Wildcat opponent, Andrew Shaffer, were locked up and neither scored, forcing a 30-second fifth period.
Shaffer began the period in the down position and escaped for a 1-point lead, 11-10. Itaya recovered and slammed Shaffer for a 2-point takedown - and a 12-11 lead. But in the final two seconds, Shaffer was awarded an escape, which forced another 30-second period.
“That’s a rookie mistake,” said Falcon head coach Jim Thompson. “He got a little tired, which was a surprise because we’re more conditioned than the other teams.”
Itaya began the final period down and quickly scored an illegal hold with 11 seconds remaining. Hoping for a takedown, Shaffer elected to resume wrestling in the neutral position, which awarded Itaya another point and a 14-12 lead that he kept as the buzzer sounded.
“I just weathered the storm,” Itaya said.
It was Itaya’s first victory against a Cascade Conference opponent this year. And the match Thursday was his last chance as South Whidbey wrapped its conference season.
“I really wanted to win this one and knew if I lost it, I wouldn’t be happy with myself,” he said.
“I knew if I lost, I wouldn’t be the same.”
Itaya credited his coaches for the late season turnaround.
“I have great coaching and great captains. Thompson, (Paul) Newman, Jake (Leonard) and Patrick (Monell) have all helped me this year.”
Archbishop Murphy won only four matches on its senior night. The Wildcats conquered the 126, 132, 195 and heavyweight bouts. Senior Colin Farrell, ranked 13th among 2A wrestlers, cruised against Falcon sophomore Josh McElhinny in the 126. The only disputed match was the 132, in which Falcon junior Keegan Warwick was pinned in 2:35. But Warwick had the match in hand in the first period. He scored a quick takedown, but allowed Wildcat senior Alex Saavedra to escape, then spin on top for a takedown. Warwick fought out of the grip and scored a reversal, then rolled Saavedra onto his shoulders before the buzzer bailed the Wildcat out of a sure pin.
“I thought the ref was slow to get down and call the pin,” Thompson said.
Between periods, Warwick medical time for his heart murmur and winced as he gasped for air and struggled to catch his breath.
“He’s really inspiring,” Thompson said.
Warwick started the second period down and quickly scored an escape point. But Saavedra was able to wrap up Warwick for a huge throw to the mat and secured the pin.
The two upper weight Wildcat wins were by Foster Wade, 2A’s sixth-ranked 195 wrestler, and Dakota Creed, ranked 10th in the heavyweight.
“They’re better wrestlers — no big surprise there,” Thompson said.
South Whidbey’s other winners included Steven Smith, who accepted a forfeit in the 113. Falcon sophomore Will Holbert won a three-period battle in the 120, defeating Andrew Cary. Andy Madsen won the 138 by pinning Sean Callaghan in 1:07. Tyler Russell returned to the varsity lineup and dropped Koa Wright in the 145. Russell came out as the aggressor, shooting early for a takedown and scoring a pair of reversals and three-point near falls.
Falcon seniors Jake Leonard and Patrick Monell ended their conference careers with victories. Leonard won the 170 narrowly against Taylor Gipson in three periods, 9-7. Monell, however, made quick work in the 220 by pinning Evi Jeong in 1:12.
First-year Falcon wrestler Beck Davis, a junior, put his raw strength on display in outdueling the Wildcats’ Ben Poirier. Davis countered a quick shot by Poirier, muscled around him and scored a pair of takedowns in the first period and followed it with a pin in 2:30.
“That’s the Beck I expected,” Thompson said. “I don’t think these kids are ready for how strong he is.”
South Whidbey travels to Tacoma for the Spec. Joseph T. Caron Memorial tournament at Washington High School on Saturday. The 1A sub-regional tournament is scheduled for Feb. 2 at Squalicum High School. The top four wrestlers from each weight at the sub-regional tournament advance to the regional tournament, to be held at Hoquiam on Feb. 9.