Sports

Falcons pin hopes on a young squad

OK, first things first -- yes, Falcon wrestling coach Jim Thompson is getting blonder by the day. Why?

"Just for fun," Thompson answered with a grin. "It gives the kids something to talk about."

If there's anyone on the island who can get away with it, it's Thompson, who served in the Marine Corps during Vietnam where he received three Purple Hearts for being wounded in action. "They were purely involuntary," Thompson noted.

He graduated from the University of Washington with a degree in graphic design in 1975.

This is Thompson's first year as head coach, following three years at Langley Middle School and one season assisting Wes Helseth.

He's realistic about the team's chances, collectively and individually. And it will soon be time for his athletes to show their true colors.

"We're going to have a very young team against some tough 3A schools, having lost seven seniors to graduation in June," Thompson said.

"But with (senior) Keith Ryder's leadership, we'll be working hard to ensure a steep learning curve," he said.

Ryder will begin at the 171-pound weight class but that will fluctuate, usually downwards, as the season progresses.

Thompson has high hopes for three juniors, Ben Morgen (140), Matt Long (160) and Kurt Warwick (103), but the rest of his squad are freshmen and sophomores: James Schorr (125), Aaron Mannie (130) and Bret Warwick (119).

At the high end is 275-pound freshman Trapper Rawls, who was two-time conference champion in middle school.

The team automatically forfeits six points whenever they can't fill one of the 14 standard weight classes.

"At this point, we'll forfeit at 112 pounds," Thompson said.

"But I won't put my kids at risk by moving them up from junior varsity to fill out weight classes," he explained. "I don't want them overwhelmed; they need to learn and gain experience in the sport."

The coach said that because there are only so many wrestling squads in the Cascade Conference, competition is key.

"It's all about mat time, building skills that pay off at the end in district and state playoffs."

Predictions for the Mat Classic in Tacoma? It's way too soon.

"Talk to me in a month,"

he said.

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