Pirate wrestlers finish strong at Rock Tournament

The referee signals the pin, giving Vince Jovanovich a comeback, overtime win over his Orting opponent in the 285-pound semi-final at the Rock Tournament. Jovanovich finished second in his division. - Rik Forschmiedt Photo
The referee signals the pin, giving Vince Jovanovich a comeback, overtime win over his Orting opponent in the 285-pound semi-final at the Rock Tournament. Jovanovich finished second in his division.
— image credit: Rik Forschmiedt Photo

This season many wrestling tournaments have seen reduced numbers of teams participating. Not so for Vashon wrestling’s “Haywire” Rock Tournament. Twelve teams competed on Dec. 28, the most in the 23-year history of the tournament.

Head coach Anders Blomgren said this year’s event was one of the best Rock Tournaments they have ever put on. “It was very competitive in all weight classes,” he said.

The Vashon team finished fourth, behind 1A Orting and 3A Everett, and just two points behind third-place 1A Ridgefield (formerly 2A).

Individually, the Pirates had great success with Dominik Stemer, Alex Sohl and Vince Jovanovich earning second place; Robert Easton winning third place and Kevin Thomas, Maximo Mandl and Nick Betz coming in fifth place from the 12-man brackets.

During the tournament, there were many outstanding matches. All eyes were on Jovanovich when he got a reversal to tie the score at 5-5 in the waning seconds of his 285-pound semi-final match, sending it into a sudden victory round. Jovanovich then pinned his 1A Orting rival in the extra period.

Shane Armstrong, 189 pounds, electrified the fans when early in the first period of a consolation bout he used a body-lock throw against his 1A Elma (formerly 2A) opponent. Even in Armstrong’s 6-11 loss, knowledgeable observers found his style reminiscent of Pirate wrestling legend Evan Mattingly.

In the 189-pound battle for third place, Easton faced a ranked Montesano opponent who had beaten him easily just two weeks before. This time Easton won 8-2, and included an over-suplay throw in his onslaught.

This year’s Rock Tournament paid tribute to 2004 Vashon state wrestling champion 1st Lt. Robert “Haywire” Bennedsen, who died in Afghanistan in July. After a moving ceremony, a new gym spotlight was dedicated in his honor.

In contrast to the Rock Tournament, Lake Stevens High School saw its Viking Invitational Tournament, held Dec. 30, shrink from last year’s 12 teams to eight teams this year and from two days to one. However, this size reduction merely concentrated the wrestling talent.

The Pirates embraced the challenge of going against bigger schools and tougher wrestlers. The Vashon wrestlers earned 70 team points against these top opponents, which Blomgren equated to a top-five team finish at the 1A state tourney.

Vashon had multiple placers from the 16-man brackets, with Easton winning second; Sohl claiming fourth; Stemer earning fifth; Mandl, Armstrong and Jovanovich finishing sixth and Louie Jovanovich getting eighth.

Easton stuck to fundamentals and was not fooled by the tactics of his Orting and 3A Yelm opponents in the first two rounds, winning by decision and pin, respectively. In the finals, Easton was pinned by a 3A Mercer Island wrestler who is a top-ranked 189-pounder. After a long drought, “it was special to have a finalist at the Lake Stevens Tournament,” said Blomgren.

Wrestling for third place at 171 pounds, Sohl faced the same Orting wrestler to whom he had lost at the Rock two days earlier. Blomgren observed how Sohl made major technical adjustments resulting in a closer match.

Stemer lost to a 4A Lake Stevens wrestler in the 135-pound bracket, but Blomgren praised Stemer for rebounding from that setback to win his next two matches. Stemer then lost to this same Lake Stevens foe for the second time that day, but again rebounded and won his last match.

Both Mandl and Armstrong pinned their noteworthy 4A Arlington opponents.

The Pirates travel to Orting today for a double dual meet and will attend the Everett Classic Tournament on Saturday.

— Marian Easton is the mother of two Pirate wrestlers.

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