WRESTLING: Tahoma edges KW, takes control of North

John Buban is usually too focused on the match at hand to hear anything, particularly the crowd.

That changed Wednesday night at Tahoma High, when the Bears’ 145-standout wrestler brought the crowd to its feet and, in the process, went speechless.

With the crowd and his teammates chanting his first name in unison, Buban edged Kentwood star Cody Quinn 9-7 in overtime, propelling Tahoma past rival Kentwood, 37-27, in a pivotal South Puget Sound League North Division dual meet.

Buban entered the final period trailing Quinn, a three-time state placer, 6-3. The Tahoma senior tied the match 7-7 with 18 seconds remaining, then secured the victory with a takedown in overtime.

“(Coach Chris Feist) gives us talks about how we want to win it for the team because we hadn’t beaten Kentwood in like 10 years,” said Buban, struggling to find the words to explain his excitement. “That was the first thing that came to mind. Going into overtime, that’s when I first started picking up the (fans). Usually I only hear the coach … but I could hear it behind me.

“That strengthened my resolve.”

The Bears (3-0) had plenty of reason for resolve Wednesday night. After all, Kentwood (1-1) hadn’t lost a league dual meet since Jan. 13, 2006, a stretch of 18 straight wins. That run of dominance included two North Division titles, crowns the Conquerors earned by beating the Bears.

The Bears, whose only losses the last two years have come against this same Kentwood squad, wasn’t about to let it happen again.

And Buban provided just the kind of spark Tahoma needed.

“It was a huge lift for us and really deflated their bench,” said Feist. “You could see the energy go out of them.”

Tahoma’s Nick Bayer, who won the state title at 160 pounds last year, was equally impressed.

“That was huge,” said Bayer, who pinned Kentwood’s Jose Hernandez in 50 seconds Wednesday night in the 171-pound bout. “That was like we won the dual. It gave us so much momentum, so much hope.”

Buban’s win, however, wasn’t the difference in the meet, Kentwood coach Ken Sroka noted.

“Tahoma controlled tie ups all day. They came out to wrestle and Quinn’s match was just one of many that we let them control,” he said.

As for Kentwood’s long winning streak …

“Dual meets, I like to go out and win them all, but we’re just going to go to practice tomorrow and work on the things we need to do to get ready for our next meet,” Sroka said.

With five North Division duals still ahead, including perennial power Auburn remaining on the horizon, the Bears are far from being anointed the top dogs in the SPSL North.

But Wednesday night’s victory certainly puts Tahoma in the driver’s seat.

“The job’s not done,” Feist said. “We expected to beat this team if we wrestled to our ability and we came out and did that. So we high-fived and celebrated. But tomorrow, it’s done.”

Tahoma won eight of the 14 matches, three via pin. Bayer (171), Tyler Lamb (135) and Zach Schuessler (152) all earned pins for the Bears.

Kentwood’s Greg Smith (189) was the only Conqueror of the night to register a pin, doing away with Zach Dopps in 5:45.

Aside from that match, 103-pound standout Ruben Navejas provided the biggest highlight for the Conks, working over Tahoma’s Steve Hopkins in a 15-0 technical fall.

Navejas’ win opened the meet and began a run of three-straight victories for the Conquerors as they took a 12-0 lead. Tahoma responded with six-straight victories to take control of the meet.

But the pivotal point came at 145 pounds, when Buban knocked off Quinn. He hadn’t beaten Quinn in two matches last year or in several attempts on the freestyle circuit.

“He just beat me all over the place,” Buban admitted. “This feels really good.”