Decatur remains unbeaten in South


News intern

The Decatur wrestling squad sent a message to the rest of the South Puget Sound League South Division Friday night — no one gets to the top without going through them.

The Gators proved that when they faced the Bethel Braves Friday, a team eager to prove their worthiness of a shot at the SPSL South crown. But when all was said and done, Decatur emerged victorious and still undefeated with 49-19 win in their home gym.

“We knew we had to win this match, and we knew what it would take to do it,” said coach Mike Bressler. “There wasn’t a kid on the team that didn’t come to wrestle tonight.”

The win sets up a huge dual tonight against the Rogers Rams in Puyallup. Rogers and Decatur are the lone undefeated teams in the SPSL South and the winner will take a big step forward to winning the league championship. The two teams were supposed to wrestle last Wednesday, but the match was cancelled because of snow.

“Bethel was just a road block in our way, and next in line is Rogers,” said senior 189-pounder Kyle Bressler.

Friday’s meet against Bethel started off emotionally charged and never slowed down. Illegal slams, headlocks and questionable refereeing were among the things that surrounded an intense matchup between two of the better teams in the league.

“In the SPSL it’s always intense. We have a rival with almost everyone we wrestle,” Mike Bressler said.

Decatur charged out of the gate strong with an early pin from 145-pounder Leabua Younger. But Bethel came right back with two decision wins in the next matches to tie things up at 6-6 going into the 171-pound match.

That’s when things got interesting.

Going into the second round, Decatur’s Carlos Cassio was in a grind of match with Jim Craig and down 2-0. Craig let his guard down and an arm open while trying to turn Cassio to his back. The Gator wrestler seized the opportunity, rolling Craig into a head and arm lock and to his back.

Craig eventually escaped to even the score and without missing a beat, he got a hold of Cassio’s legs and, struggling to get a take down, drove his shoulder into Cassio’s chest as they hit the mat. The referee blew his whistle and with Cassio being unable to continue, Decatur took the six -point win because of an illegal slam.

This gave Decatur a 12-6 lead with their captain and defending state champ Kyle Bressler up next. Nobody was stunned to see Bressler play with his opponent in the first round and score a pin in the second.

The match of the night was Taylor McCluskey facing off against the No. 5-ranked 215-pounder in the state, Ben Hawk. McCluskey had lost twice to Hawk earlier in a tournament this season — being pinned both times.

“I was a little nervous, but I knew I had to win at that point in the match,” McCluskey said.

Hawk scored a takedown right away, only to be rolled to his back by McCluskey, who scored both near fall points and a lot of momentum on the reversal. Until late in the third round the two exchanged points back and forth, but with 20 seconds left McCluskey held Hawk’s shoulders toward the mat, scoring enough points to take the 13-8 win for the Gators. The home crowd erupted as they counted down the final five seconds.

“I’ve never heard them that loud,” McCluskey said.

“Taylor came to wrestle tonight, and it showed,” Coach Bressler said.

The McCluskey decision proved to be the turning point of the dual, as Bethel only won three more matches, none of them coming from a pin.

Decatur picked up a first-round pin from heavyweight Barry Driskoll. Travis Hoeft (125), Dustin English (130), Myles Peckman (135) and Bo Bowell (140) all finished with victories.

Lake Stevens Invitational

Decatur placed eighth at the nine-team Gators in Lake Stevens Invitational Saturday at Lake Stevens High School. Decatur was supposed to host the prestigious tournament, but a scheduling conflict forced the tournament to be moved.

Kyle Bressler improved to 20-0 on the season at 189 by winning the tournament championship with a technical fall over T.C. Toler from Sumner in the final. Bressler was also named the outstanding wrestler of the tournament.

Marcus Leone (112) and Dustin English (130) both finished second in their weight classes. Lake Stevens won the tournament.

News intern Dustin Nickerson:

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