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South Whidbey wrestlers young, but eager to start
Last season, three South Whidbey wrestlers qualified for regional success, but failed to get to the zenith of high school wrestling — the Mat Classic in the Tacoma Dome.
They are determined that this year will be different.
“I’ve been running two to three miles a day and working out,” said Falcon Colton Vaughn, a wrestler in the 125-pound weight class.
He’s been at the sport since middle school and this is his final chance to make his mark on the mat.
“Our coaches — Jim Thompson, Paul Newman and Jason Mannie — do an outstanding job of getting us up to speed, making us work hard and fine-tuning our technique,” he said.
Van Morgen (145) agreed.
“Dedication to this sport is everything to them,” he said. “They make us go beyond our limits, so we can reach even higher.”
All of them have the chance to be rated All-Conference this year, added Evan Thompson (130).
“And a realistic chance for state finals,” Vaughn said.
Coach Thompson sure hopes so, but has been around long enough not to be carried away by his player’s exuberance.
“This is by far the most inexperienced team I’ve had,” Thompson said as he watched the boys practice takedowns and reversals. “We’ll be short 102-, 112-, and 215-pound guys and that will hurt us during matches.”
The team automatically forfeits six points whenever they can’t fill one of the 14 standard weight classes.
“At this point, we’ll forfeit in several classes,” Thompson said. “But I won’t put my kids at risk by moving them up from junior varsity to fill out weight classes. I don’t want them overwhelmed; they need to learn and gain experience in the sport.”
Though he’s not thrilled there’s only three scheduled home appearances this year — Lakewood, Sultan and Archbishop Murphy will all make an appearance — he recognized the great support from parents who travel on the weekends to watch their sons compete.
“They’re fantastic and it’s much appreciated by everyone,” he said.
The coach said that because there are only so many wrestling squads in the Cascade Conference, it’s all about mat time, building skills that pay off at the end in district and state playoffs.
Thompson expects some tough matches this year, but conceded that they can be valuable learning experiences.
“If you make a mistake, a good wrestler punishes you for the error and takes advantage,” Thompson said. “We take that hard-earned knowledge back to practice and go over it in depth. Then we do it again.”
Morgen mused about the differences between wrestling and his other sport of choice, tennis.
“I guess I’d say wrestling is more emotional, given the level of physical contact over the three two-minute periods,” he said. “When you lose a match, you really feel terrible.”
Thompson played football in the fall.
“When you run crisp routes, you will win, one-on-one,” he said. “In wrestling, a crisp takedown — going after the other guy’s legs or upper body — will always produce a win.”
One problem facing the whole team is keeping weight in check.
“You need to eat right,” Vaughn said.
Water and juice instead of Cokes, chicken rather than meat and salads featuring more protein, less calories.
“I bring a bag of carrots to snack on during the day,” Vaughn said.
First home action begins with a match on Thursday, Dec. 17 against Lakewood in Erickson Gym.