Sports

Cougs coming together on the mats

By AARON MANAGHAN

Sports editor

Mike Harter sees good things for the Central Kitsap wresting program this year.

The CK wrestling coach has been working hard the past few seasons to put CK’s program back in a positive light. With the crew he has, Harter said this could be the year all that hard work pays off.

“We’ve worked hard the last couple years to establish a good group of kids who are tough, but good kids,” he said. “I’ve been working toward establishing that wrestling culture back here.”

Part of that is through things like the team’s summer camp. This summer, CK took a contingent to the K & K Camp, in Wenatchee, where in addition to intensive wrestling, they camped together and went on a white-water rafting excursion.

“It was a real good team-building experience,” Harter said.

Part of that is changing attitudes at the school. For example, the Cougs will have black and orange days throughout the season, where eight CK wrestlers will be given black and orange shirts to wear at school. The student body will then tell them to look forward to quite a workout, as Harter has a special workout planned on those days that, suffice it to say, will test the mettle of CK’s grapplers.

Led by returning senior Franco Cruz, who finished sixth at state last year at 135 pounds, the Cougars are a mix of returners and newcomers.

But Cruz is a nice returner to have, Harter said, adding that Cruz wants to not only duplicate, but elaborate on last year’s success.

“It drives him,” Harter said. “He wants to do better. He wants to be a state champ. I didn’t see that drive last year. He’d talk about it, but I didn’t see that same drive.”

With a turnout of about 40 kids, the Cougs have just five returning seniors. But the kids CK has, while young, have the experience to compete. Add in guys who were hurt last year, and Harter is optimistic about CK’s chances.

“All the sophomores that went to regionals are back,” he said. “And we’ve got guys like Robbie Olsen, Lorenzo Smith, Jake Newell.”

Perhaps the biggest returner who had his season cut short by injuries a year ago is Kent Manalo.

“His knee seems healed,” Harter said. “Kent’s one of those guys I think would have gone to state.”

Last year, CK took eight grapplers to regionals, with only Cruz advancing. But of that group, only Blake Eickmeyer graduated. That means guys like Trevor Stanburg (112 last year), Cameron Anthony (125), Jacob Olson (145), Chase Huntley (160), Mike Crowley (171) and Howard McDonald (189) all return with experience that outweighs their collective youth.

“I’m pretty pleased with it,” Harter said.

While the state’s new weight management program, overseen by the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association, changes some things, those changes won’t affect CK very much. The new regulation states that the establishment of a minimum wrestling weight class is based on 7 percent body fat for males and 12 for females.

“In essence, we’ve been doing it,” Harter said. “It’s a little more restrictive than what we were doing. But other than that.”

That could make for some interesting challenge matches in practice however. Right now, both Anthony and Cruz are slated at about 140.

But Harter said the kids’ performances in the mat room will still determine everything.

“Whoever wins deserves to be there,” he said.

Another key returner for Central Kitsap will be Chad Massida, who fell just short at league’s last year.

“Chad’s really worked hard,” Harter said.

The Cougars also will have a new assistant coach in Glen Sprechler this season, a former Pennsylvania high school wrestler who’s been coaching at CK Junior High.

“He’s been really nice,” he said.

All that means Harter is liking where his team is at this point in the season.

“We’re doing fine for where we are,” he said. “We have a few kids that have never been on the mat before. And those guys that haven’t, they’re really picking it up quick.”

All that also means that Harter thinks CK will be able to hang with anyone and everyone in the Narrows League this year.

“It’s too early to tell,” he said. “We’re gonna hold our own. Will we be some sort of super powerhouse? No. But will we compete with everyone? Yes. I don’t see anyone we can’t beat.”

CK starts its season Dec. 1 with a trip to the Bellingham Invitational Tournament.

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