by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Sunset junior 138-pound Spencer Stokes took second place at the 6A state championships on Saturday, beating Forest Groves Cody Smith, 15-6.

All the Sunset wrestling haters out there can now hold their tongues.

Perceived by a few talkative commentators as a fortunate team that beat Aloha and Southridge during the regular season, won the Metro League title by a whisker, and narrowly showed out at the regional with seven state qualifiers, the Apollos went into the 6A state championships with a chip on their shoulders.

There was a detectable edge in the way Sunset wrestled on Friday in the first couple rounds and again on Saturday in the semifinals and consolation matches. They were out to demonstrate that all they accomplished this season, winning Metro for the first time in school history, while knocking off the league’s powerhouses, was legitimate.

Putting three competitors in the semifinals including Spencer Stokes’ second place finish and state championship match appearance, the Apollos officially hushed the haters, placing 11th with 50.5 points, 13.5 points ahead of Aloha and 18 ahead of Southridge to claim the Metro’s highest team state finish.

“There’s been a lot of questioning about Sunset,” stated Stokes. “But, at the big show, where it all really matters, we still show up. So what does that say about Sunset? It wasn’t a fluke the first time. It wasn’t a fluke when we won Metro. It wasn’t a fluke at regionals or here. I think this proves what kind of team we are.”

Unfortunately, Stokes’ result in the 138-pound championship match was not what he had hoped for as he fell to an aggressive Layne Van Anrooy. The Roseburg freshman won by a 13-3 major decision over Stokes, who was understandably disappointed, yet quickly turned his eyes toward another chance next season.

“The loss was tough, but I’m not going to dwell on it,” Stokes said. “Obviously I don’t like losing but I have to move on.”

Stokes said he underestimated Van Anrooy’s strength and seemed unable to find his rhythm.

No doubt, Stokes would wholeheartedly welcome another shot at Van Anrooy during his senior season.

“I knew that’s how he breaks a lot of guys. He gets in their face, but I just kind of got out wrestled,” Stokes added. “It was a wake-up call.”

by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Sunset junior 138-pound Spencer Stokes took second place at the 6A state championships on Saturday, beating Forest Groves Cody Smith, 15-6.

“For so long if you made it to state for Sunset everyone was happy for you,” said 160-pound Nathan Burnett. “That was all you could do. Now, there’s kind of an expectation. Just showing up to state isn’t good enough. It was a great way for me to end my senior year. Even the wrestlers who aren’t excelling at this point, we have a lot of good kids on our team. I’m proud to be a part of it.”

“At some point it’s not luck anymore,” added Sunset 126-pound state competitor Quin Bingham. “At some it’s about hard work and determination.”

After splitting matches with Forest Grove’s Chad Smith during the regular season and regional tournament, Bingham beat Smith 10-5 in the rubber match to move onto the third place match.

“It was super tough, but I was able to out technique him,” said Bingham. “He was stronger than me and I was able to overcome that adversity. A lot of it was reflexes. When he tried to go big, I beat him to the spot so it didn’t work out for him.”

by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Sunset junior 132-pound Quin Bingham battled back through the consolation bracket and took fourth place for the Apollos at state on Saturday.

Bingham said he had to brush aside all the nerves and expectations that were placed upon him and just wrestle his own match.Unranked coming into state, Bingham took fourth after losing 8-3 to South Salem’s Raul Villarreal in the third place match. Bingham placed third at regionals after losing in the quarterfinals and working his way back up the consolation bracket.

“I did better than people expected me to,” said Bingham. “I do his for fun, I do this for the team. I’m doing this to succeed, really.”

Stokes dominated his semifinal match with Forest Grove’s Cody Smith, scoring a 15-6 major decision win that was never really in doubt. The junior said he wanted to stay conservative on his feet because Smith was shooting for the big takedown at every turn. Yet, Stokes scored seven takedowns over the course of the match including three in the first round for a 6-2 lead.

“I wanted to show the refs I was working, not trying to protect a lead,” said Stokes. “I know I’m a better athlete on my feet, so I wanted to use that to my advantage. I knew I could get after him and break him down, then wrestle my match the whole time.”

Burnett said Gresham’s Colby Winnett was a little more athletic than he was, which ultimately was the deciding difference in losing the 160-pound semifinal match. But, Burnett bounced back by upsetting Hillsboro’s Hunter Morse in the consolation bracket with a 3-2 win and came out with a fourth place medal.

“I didn’t let my loss get to me,” said Burnett. “It comes down to mental toughness. Being upset, going out there and losing a match doesn’t do anything for you. If you want to make something better, then go back and get third. I knew I’d rather be going for fourth rather than fifth or sixth. I just had to put that loss to the side. I was able to zone in on just me and the other guy with no one else around.”

by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Sunset senior 160-pound Nathan Burnett shook off a semifinal loss and bounced back with a fourth place finish at the 6A state championships.

With Stokes and Bingham coming back to a program that is back on the right track and ripe with young talent like Kincaid Crile, Daniel Linnell, Zach Morello, Ellis Parr and Adam Simmons returning, the soon-to-be-graduated Burnett sees nothing but a bright Apollo future ahead.

“After how long of a stretch Sunset had as the worst school around, it’s going to take a little bit of time for people to start recognizing us as a real wrestling school,” said Burnett. “But, we’re definitely on the right track. After this year, people won’t take us lightly anymore.”

Freelancer Jeff Smith contributed to this story.

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