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All grapplers’ eyes are on the Dome | FALCON SPORTS PREVIEW
For most of the nine seniors on South Whidbey’s wrestling team, their goal this season is pretty straightforward — go to the Dome.
Short for the Tacoma Dome, it’s where the annual all-division Mat Classic state wrestling tournament takes place in late February. Last season, the Falcons sent Pat Monell to the Dome, but he graduated this past spring.
South Whidbey had plenty of shots at qualifying a wrestler for the state 1A tournament last year. Seven Falcons competed in the 1A sub-regional round, and three qualified for the state tournament as alternates.
“I think we’re going to make it pretty far,” said Falcon senior Andy Madsen, one of the team’s three co-captains. “I think a lot of people are making it to state, honestly. We have a lot of seniors, a lot of experience.”
For Madsen, perhaps the Falcons’ most decorated grappler, the road to Tacoma began a few weeks before the season officially started. He saw his weight jump from wrestling at 138 last year to near 152 — the product of maturing — this season. To get ready for his new weight class, Madsen traveled to Sultan High School every Sunday for a few weeks to train and hit the mats.
“When I got to a scale, I was like, ‘Oh! I got chubby,’ ” he said.
Even though wrestling is one of those rare individual-team hybrid sports, where a wrestler qualifies for the highest level of the sport alone, independent of team records, South Whidbey’s veteran-laden squad wants to claim a Cascade Conference title.
Winning the league standings battle has no bearing on the Falcons’ position in the postseason tournaments. Being the Cascade Conference Champion is a bragging right, but it would mean South Whidbey won lots of matches in its meets.
“To me, it matters,” said Falcon senior Tyler Russell, a co-captain. “In order to win (the) conference, you have to win meets. In order to win meets, you have to win matches, which means we’re getting better.”
Russell has wrestled at 145 pounds all four years as a Falcon. Through his career, Russell was a “bubble” wrestler, splitting time between junior varsity and varsity. This year, he’ll battle junior Jonathan Peterson for the varsity 145 spot. A summer spent working out, and conditioning modeled after U.S. Olympic gold medalist wrestler Jordan Burroughs, may give Russell a leg up on not only his teammates, but his competition.
“I’m not the strongest kid, for sure,” Russell said. “But I am quick.”
Fast attacks are not a trademark of the South Whidbey wrestling team. But coaches Jim Thompson and Paul Newman hope to incorporate that into their wrestlers’ repertoire, along with giving them a handful of moves to string together for a complete match.
The wrestlers’ willingness to train hard depends on each Falcon, but the notion hit home for the Falcons who saw the state tournament last year from the bleachers. Madsen, for example, keeps photos from the tournament as his background photo on his cell phone, hangs the ticket stub from the tournament around his rear view mirror and often wears the 2013 Mat Classic sweatshirt.
“It’s just reminding me what I have to do,” he said.