It was a crowd unlike any South Whidbey wrestling head coach Jim Thompson had seen before a match.
On both sides of the stands at Erickson Gymnasium were friends, family and community members numbering in the dozens. They were there to watch the Falcons compete against Granite Falls on senior night and South Whidbey’s one and only home match this season. Because of a lack of Tiger wrestlers, the Jan. 11 match was considered an exhibition and an official score was not kept.
That fact mattered little to the four seniors — Hunter Newman, Logan Madsen, Jack Nielsen and Chase Barthlett — who wrestled in front of their home crowd for the final time. All four won, three of which were by pin, as did sophomore 160-pounder Owen Boram.
“It was very, very exciting,” Thompson said. “I was so happy to see such a great crowd support this team. To actually see this team come out and be able to put on a decent show, it was fun.”
The athletes said it was a positive send-off for a team that was competing in its first home dual meeting in two years.
“It was phenomenal,” said Madsen, who pinned Tiger wrestler Devin Meyer in the second period of the 182-pound match. “I’ve never seen that room that packed for wrestling ever. It was kind of cool having it be the talk of the school the next couple of days too. It was insane. People were going nuts about it.”
“Most people didn’t realize what wrestling was,” he added.
Newman, a senior 145-pounder and two-time state participant, earned the closest victory of his season in a 9-7 decision over Granite Falls’ Seth Harris. Though happy to have wrestled in front of the crowd, the fourth-year wrestler wasn’t content with how he wrestled.
“I definitely don’t feel like I wrestled to the best of my ability,” Newman said. “Even though a win’s a win, I still I could have done better. But it was still fun wrestling in front of our crowd and hometown.”
Thompson said sophomore Aryeh Rohde and first-year wrestlers Alex Turner, Odin Hopkins, Dayton Birchfield and Michah Tarantino had a tougher night. All but Rohde were pinned by their Tiger opponents; Rohde lost 9-8.
Two days later, the Falcons traveled north to compete at the Darrington Tournament where they also fared well. Of the eight wrestlers competing for South Whidbey, six placed in the top three. South Whidbey finished fourth overall.
“I had a big talk after the (Granite Falls) match, saying we just need to get back and be more aggressive,” Thompson said. “I got to see their aggressiveness at Darrington.”
Newman won his fourth tournament of the season after winning his championship bout in 32 seconds over Sultan’s Donald Dennis. Madsen, Rohde and Nielsen placed second, while Barthlett and Hopkins placed third.
Madsen was comfortably ahead of Cedarcrest’s Jaren Stevenson 5-0 in his finals match, but an errant attempt at a takedown ultimately led to him being pinned.
“It just kind of shows you how quickly things can turn,” Madsen said. “I’m not going to dwell on it, and move on.”
Newman was 14-1 as of Thursday afternoon, just prior to the Falcons’ departure for a match against Cascade Conference opponents Granite Falls, Archbishop Murphy and Lakewood. Things turned sour for him just a couple hours later.
Newman was pinned twice by his opponents from Granite Falls and Lakewood on Thursday night.
“I don’t know what’s ingrained in him right now,” Thompson said. “He’s got some flaws. He’s not real good on top. Never has been. When he’s on top, he has a tough time getting points. That ugly head is going to rear itself in matches when he has tough kids.”
South Whidbey has one final match this season against Archbishop Murphy on Jan. 26. The Falcons will compete in the Cascade Conference Tournament at Granite Falls on Jan. 28.