Last season, Falcon wrestling coach Jim Thompson was named “Coach of the Year” by the Cascade Conference.
That honor was based on the South Whidbey team coming in second in the league, winning their first tournament, plus taking five grapplers to the Mat Classic state finals at the Tacoma Dome.
Thompson was hoping this year to do even better. It won’t be easy.
New regulations issued by the Washington Interscholastic Athletic Association make it difficult for smaller schools, including South Whidbey, to keep from forfeiting matches in several of the 14 weight classes.
“There are new, very strict limits on how far a wrestler can drop his weight to meet a specific class,” Thompson said.
The new rules are designed to prevent sudden heavy weight loss, a process often called “crashing weights,” to meet individual tournaments.
The idea is to keep wrestlers healthy and prevent short- and long-term physical problems that can result from rapid weight fluctuations and unsafe weight-loss practices.
“It’s a good concept, but it will take a while to adjust,” Thompson noted. “The hope is that the rules will also put more focus on learning the skills of the sport and less on the tradition of cutting weight.
“However, this year we’ll need to forfeit in several classes at each meet.”
A forfeit means the team automatically loses six points.
Several of Thompson’s key grapplers showed up hovering around the 150-pound mark; several of the team’s top athletes weigh close to that and may have to alternate one week to the next.
“My ultimate goal was to take five to seven kids to state,” Thompson said. He hopes Aaron Mannie, James Schorr, Brett Warwick, Colton Vaughn, David Monell, Trapper Rawls and Darrin Britton will advance to the state tourney.
Until then, it’s all about body fat.
An athlete first undergoes a specific gravity test that determines his level of hydration.
Then the wrestler’s height, weight and age is entered into a Web-based software program which then calculates the lowest allowable weight for each wrestler based on a minimum of 7 percent body fat.
For those wrestlers above the required body fat percentage, the system calculates a safe weight-loss plan and can even produce custom diet plans for each wrestler.
Regardless of the rules, training must continue.
Two-by-two, the athletes have been running mock drills, hewing as close to the real thing as possible.
But there’s nothing really “mock” about it. The tension and strain of real combat is closely watched by Falcon coaches Thompson and Paul Newman with lots of advice and encouragement from teammates.
Mannie and Schorr are two Falcon wrestling veterans.
“We’ve wrestled as partners now for seven years,” Mannie said. “This is the only way to make sure we’re ready for the real thing.”
“The intensity is picking up now, going to a higher level,” he said.
When the Langley Middle School program found they didn’t have a coach, Thompson stepped in. Both schools train concurrently at the high school but Thompson is on the road a lot these days.
“It gives the kids a chance to watch what we do so when they get here, they’ll be familiar with the program,” Thompson said.
Over the weekend at the Forks Tournament, the team managed fifth out of 10 teams, and the competition included several larger 3A schools. Mannie won his class (152 pounds), as did Schorr (152). Colton Vaughn (112) and Van Morgen (119) took second and Rawls (285), third.
At 6:45 on Tuesday, Dec. 11 the team welcomes Cedarcrest for the first of three home matches.
“We hope folks come out and watch,” Mannie said. “This sport can be pretty intense for fans. Though not as much as it is for us.”
Jeff VanDerford can be reached at 221-5300 or firstname.lastname@example.org