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Originally published February 16, 2013 at 10:05 PM | Page modified February 16, 2013 at 10:23 PM

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Lake Stevens reclaims team championship | 4A Wrestling

Brothers Eric and Michael Soler each won titles as the Vikings, fifth at state last season, captured the school's ninth state wrestling crown.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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TACOMA — Eric Soler takes things personally.

As a team captain, he blamed himself when Lake Stevens didn't win the Class 4A state wrestling championship last season — even though he contributed an individual title. The Vikings were fifth and missed taking home a trophy.

"I felt like I didn't do my job," Soler said.

So it was extra satisfying Saturday at Mat Classic XXV at the Tacoma Dome when Soler not only became a two-time champion, but helped the Vikings return to the top in dominating fashion. They scored 162 points — second most in school history — to easily outdistance runner-up Tahoma (120).

And it was extra special, too, because Michael Soler, Eric's freshman brother, also finished first at 106.

"I was more nervous for him than I was for me," Eric said.

Although it was Eric's match at 145 that was the nail-biter. He trailed Graham-Kapowsin's Ian Steen, another returning champion, 2-1 before pulling a reversal in the final seconds.

It was all according to plan, according to Soler, who has battled a variety of injuries this season.

"Lately, my conditioning hasn't been very good, so I kind of wait 'til the end and then, bam, make my move," he said.

Soler is among a handful of Lake Stevens wrestlers who have earned four state medals. His two firsts follow a fourth and fifth.

"He's one of the best competitors I've ever coached," Vikings coach Brent Barnes said. "When he steps into the circle, he's going to find a way."

As usual, Brandon Johnson found a way, too, capping an unbeaten season for Lake Stevens by winning the 285-pound crown after placing second last year. He celebrated by hoisting Barnes in the air.

The Vikings now own nine team titles, including five of the past seven. They came in with a tournament-best 14 wrestlers and went out with nine medalists, including the three champions.

Notes

Ryan Christensen of Woodinville lived up to his No. 1 ranking at 182 with a 4-1 decision in the final over No. 2 Tanner Davis from Central Valley of Spokane. Christensen, a national champion, might have won as a sophomore last year if he hadn't been in the same classification (160) as Mead's Chandler Rogers, who beat him in the final. Rogers became a three-time champion Saturday and will have the opportunity to join the elite four-time club next season.

• Junior Noah Cuzzetto of Edmonds-Woodway won his second straight title, repeating at 106 with a pin over Yelm sophomore Brett Harris, last year's 3A champ at the same weight. Cuzzetto (39-1) edged Harris 6-5 in the regional finals a week earlier, but fell behind 4-0 in the first period Saturday and trailed 6-3 in the second before getting the stick.

• Bothell's Brandon Davidson completed his climb to the top with a pin in the 152-pound final, and evened the bragging rights with his brother, Justin, who won in 2004. Brandon placed third last year and fifth as a sophomore.

Josh Smith fell short of his bid to become Kent-Meridian's first champion since his brother Chris won in 2001. He was pinned in the 138-pound final by Yelm's Dillon Harris after injuring his lower leg earlier in the match.

Tim Whitehead, a Tahoma senior, settled for second place for the second year in a row, falling to Pasco's Timmy Martinez at 120, 4-2. Last season, he lost at 113 to a returning champion. Gabe Boynay (132) and Matt Hopkins (195) also finished second for the Bears. Hopkins lost a wild match to Joseph Gomez of Graham-Kapowsin in three overtimes, after it appeared he had scored a takedown in the first OT.

• Skyline's Joey Gurke lost to Smith in the 138 semifinals and wound up sixth. Teammate Sean McAlhaney battled back from a first-round loss at 220 to place third, sweeping his final five matches. KingCo 4A's only other medalist was Eric Harper of Eastlake (fifth at 195).

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