The Lincoln Abes were out seeking revenge for a loss to Wilson last year, and not even clever coaching moves by Rams coaches late in the wrestling match could stop the momentum the Abes carried from the beginning. Luan and Ly Dang pinned their counterparts in succession to start off the match, getting Lincoln off to a hot start in an eventual 50-24 win over the Rams on Jan. 5.
“The kids had a lot of motivation,” said Lincoln coach Minh Nguyen. “Our goal as a coaching staff is to be the best Tacoma school. Beating Wilson, who is perennially at the top, definitely helps us out.”
Luan Dang started by pinning Wilson’s Cyrus Volk in just under two minutes, and Ly Dang followed in the 120-pound class by pinning Kevyn Ramos in two minutes and 41 seconds to put the Abes up 12-0.
“It kind of set the tone that we were ready. We had a fire lit under us and we were ready to rumble, basically,” said Lincoln captain Ransom Hatch, who was equally impressive later in winning his match 20-5 over the Rams’ Alex Gore.
“They did everything they were asked to tonight,” added Nguyen of his first two wrestlers. “They definitely set the tone, and we fed off of that and kept going. I think after those first few matches we started getting that confidence going.”
Lincoln continued its roll when Derron Harris beat Malcolm Martin 16-9 and Hatch followed with his dominating performance in the 145-pound bout. The Abes added two physical, drawn-out wins to go up 38-0 when Ike Castro edged Chris Neiman 13-7 in the 150-pound class and Austin Pizarro followed with a gritty 4-2 win over Timmy Sentinella.
“They’re definitely getting mentally stronger and able to take more shots, which I’m really proud of them for,” said Hatch of his team. “We’re really bonding as a team, and we’re going to be a forced to be reckoned with in the postseason.”
The Rams fought back thanks to some lineup shifting by Nguyen’s brother Quoc, the head coach at Wilson. Elijah Rowley – listed at the 182-pound class – was switched to the 170-pound match and quickly pinned the Abes’ Jamal Howard, while Jacob Evens was moved up and pinned Keidrick O’Bannon in 51 seconds in the 182-pound bout.
“My brother, we talked about it. He’s very crafty,” Nguyen said, adding that the gamesmanship was in order to create better matchups. “So we always have to be on top of our game.”
Wilson’s Evan McMann followed that by pinning Queveon Jenkins, and Jake Ferris – who also was shifted up to the 220-pound match – claimed a forfeit to bring the Rams to within 38-24. But Lincoln’s Ben Failauga – who was moved up from the 220 to the 285-pound class – finished the Abes’ victory by pinning Wilson’s Matt Newman.
“We knew Wilson beat us last year, they handed it to us,” Nguyen said. “So we were looking to come back stronger to show them how much Lincoln wrestling has improved.”
With the regular season winding down, both teams host key league matches on Nov. 19 at 7 p.m., with Lincoln facing Capital while Wilson takes on Yelm.