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Cubs end RJHS' 12-year run
"It's over.Not the junior high school wrestling season - that concludes today with the county championships at Fairview.What's over is The Streak. When Central Kitsap Junior High beat Ridgetop a couple weeks ago in front of a packed house in the high school gym, it ended a winning streak that was going on 13 years.Good for CKJH. Better for CKHS.Ridgetop, besides ruling the county's junior high roost for more than a decade, has been the major source of wrestling talent for not only Central Kitsap, but for Olympic High School, as well. The emergence of CKJH as another hotbed - and another supplier of solid talent - bodes well for the Cougar program that has produced three state champions and two top-10 Mat Classic finishes in the last three years.When I started three years ago, there was only one kid out of this junior high (on the CK varsity), says Jim Northcutt, the head coach at CK junior high and an assistant under Doug Pecha at the high school. We knew that had to change. Doug and I knew we wanted to build the program.Ridgetop was the model. Pecha had taken over a program there that already had been built into a perennial power under Brad Hamblet. Pecha's first year at RJHS, 1998, was the Raiders' 10th straight undefeated season.Pecha took the high school job when John Kullberg stepped down the next winter and coached both programs until this year. When Pecha took the high school job, he brought old friend - and former babysitter - Northcutt along, and charged him with fortifying the CKJH program.I used to babysit Doug, Northcutt said. We've known each other a long time, not just from wrestling.Northcutt's first year at CKJH, 1999, 26 students turned out. This year, there were 48. The rivalry - the challenge to Ridgetop's dominance - finally had some teeth.The numbers aren't just up. The team is filled with serious wrestlers, who also work with the Northwest Washington Wrestling Club (NWWC) or other local teams that expand their opportunities for good coaching and tournament experience.Between the clubs and the junior high, Northcutt says, the youngsters will be ready, by the time they get to the high school, to keep the Cougars among the state's elite programs.The Cubs' undefeated season and streak-ending victory over Ridgetop - under the lights and in front of a screaming crowd on the high school mats - served as an announcement that Northcutt's program has arrived.But he'll be the first to tell you that Ridgetop hasn't gone anywhere. As rivalries go, this year was just the beginning.We gave them total respect that night, he says. You've got to respect what they've done there for 13 years.Most of the kids on the two teams are friends. They know each other and they've wrestled together for a long time, Northcutt says. It's a rivalry, but it's a healthy, friendly one.The bulk of this year's Central Kitsap team, Northcutt says, is freshmen - wrestlers who have a chance to move up and make an impact on what will be a young Cougar team next winter when CK joins the Narrows League for the first year.I think a lot of these kids will make that team, he says. It'll be somewhat of a rebuilding year up there.One wrestler Northcutt is looking at for an immediate impact at the high school level is Tyler Moyer, who won his first county championship as a seventh grader, but who will miss today's tournament to travel to a regional-national club competition.He's only 14, but he's got a lot of experience, he says of Moyer - whose older brother, Jake, starred for CKHS last season but was robbed of a chance to go to Mat Classic when he was struck by mononucleosis. He's pinned every kid he's wrestled (this season). He hasn't had a match.To me, he's the next Preston Chadwick, Northcutt says, referring to the 2000 CKHS graduate who won two state titles during his prep career. He's a leader; he's the kind of kid who carries a lot of kids along with him. "