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Grappling with greatness
It takes a lot of heart to don a wrestling singlet. The practices are brutal and the competitions even more so. Theres the stress of losing weight and the thought that your next match is going to be the toughest fight of your life.
Despite these odds, wrestling in the Central Kitsap area has grown bigger and stronger with the teams from Central Kitsap, Olympic and Klahowya all stepping up to the challenge.
The Cougars open their season at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 5, at home against Lincoln. That same night Klahowya is at Vashon and Olympic hosts Mt. Tahoma, Bainbridge and Wilson at 6 p.m.
Central Kitsap looks to build upon their successes last year when they took a whole passel of athletes to state with many of the same wrestlers back at the same weight classes.
Ive got 14 regional wrestlers back, two regional champs and two state placers, fifth-year coach Jim Northcutt said. One nice thing about my kids is that theyre at the same weight they were last year so that doesnt effect us that much.
CK did lose a couple of its top grapplers. Jason Mendez graduated and sophomore Tyler Moyer transferred to Maryland.
But the heart and soul of last years team remains the same with 130-pound Donny DeRusha (state qualifier at 135), Chad Eickmeyer (3rd place at state at 135), Mike Frerichs (state finalist at 140), Jason Sencil (140), Josh Martinelli (state qualifier at 152) and Scott Jennings (215) all back again.
My numbers are a little smaller this year than I thought but were stacked in the middle, Northcutt said. This is a great group of kids.
Theyre also wiser after disappointing trips to Tacoma last February.
I didnt come out the way I wanted to, said Frerichs, who was disqualified from the 2002 Mat Classic for unsportsmanlike conduct in the finals. I psyched myself out before the finals. Now Im ready for it. Im going to be more disciplined this year, more focused. With every mistake you make, you learn from it. So what I took from last year was a learning experience.
CK, which was ranked No. 3 in the preseason coaching polls, has plenty of learning experiences in front of it. Theyre going to the always tough Tri-State Tournament Dec. 13-14 against teams from Washington, Oregon and Idaho; the Sedro-Woolley Invitational, Washingtons best tournament on Dec. 21; and their very own Matman Tournament on Jan. 18 which always brings out the areas top teams.
Olympic looks to be in the fight as well since theyre picked to finish in the top 3 of the Narrows League Bridge Division with CK and South Kitsap.
Were going to have a solid team this year, said coach Darryl Smith, now in his 23rd year helming the Trojans. We have a bunch of seniors and were evenly distributed throughout the lineup. We dont have them all bunched in the middle. We have a couple good ones on the bottom, some in the middle with our strength in our upper weights. From 171 to 275 well be solid.
The boys in Blue and White looked to be a dominate force going into last seasons regional tournament. But the day turned into a huge disappointment when only one wrestler, 275-pound Josh Allbee, qualified for state.
We got hit hard at regionals and its caused some consternation on my part thinking of what we couldve done better, Smith said. But we had the injury bug bite us and we had a couple of guys not perform up to their abilities. And in a one-day event, you have to get it done on that day or your season comes to an end really quick. We are in a different region this year and theres a Narrows League tournament, that should send even more Trojans to regionals and possibly state since they no longer have to face wrestlers from the Wesco League.
At Klahowya, theres hope a new coaching staff will turn around a team that won only one duals match last season. Brad Hamblet, who started Ridgetop Junior High on its mythical 12-season-long undefeated winning streak, now is in charge of the Eagles with Rob Hawley.
Well see how it goes, Hamblet said of his 28-member team (a school record for turnout) which only has four seniors. Were very young. Theres a very strong sophomore group with good skill technique and know what it takes to wrestle hard and wrestle tough.
Hamblet said he expects Ryan Fitts (a legitimate state contender at 112), Rory Lee (189) and Jimmy Burke (103) to challenge for state berths in the difficult Nisqually League.