Grapplers gear up for tournament grind | FALCON WINTER SPORTS PREVIEW

South Whidbey High School junior Hunter Newman will look to improve upon his state berth from last season.

If there was one thing that kept South Whidbey High School junior Hunter Newman from winning a match at the Class 1A state wrestling tournament last season, it was his inability to escape from the bottom position.

Newman’s heard about it plenty from Falcon head wrestling coach Jim Thompson, and probably even more from his father, assistant coach Paul Newman.

He made sure to address it in the first two weeks of practice. Hunter Newman’s state run ended after two losses that were decided by just two points each, a deficit that might have been overcome if he had escaped from the bottom.

“Last year, I was just kind of relaxing on bottom and not doing my best, so it’s totally changed this year,” Newman said.

Newman, who will likely wrestle in the 138-pound or 145-pound weight classes, said he focused on his mat awareness, technique, and conditioning in the first two weeks of practice.

Thompson said the turnout for the team — 14 wrestlers — is good. But he would always like to see more.

Because of smaller turnouts on teams across the Cascade Conference, the league scraped dual, head-to-head meets this season. The league will instead host a Cascade Conference Super Dual at Sultan High School on Jan. 30.

Rather than focus on team goals, Thompson said he wants to have as many individuals advance to the podium at tournaments as possible.

The Falcons regularly face off against Class 3A and 4A teams in tournament competition, where the challenge of grappling with athletes from larger programs improves technique and mental resolve for the Falcons.

The same goal will apply at the end of the season during the district tournament, which decides who advances to the regional and then state tournaments

“I’ve got three or four kids at 1A that we can possibly get to state,” Thompson said. “I expect a lot out of Hunter Newman this year, obviously. It’s going to be fun having him go to tournaments as a state kid.”

Newman will be seeded highly in tournaments because of his state berth from last season, so there will be higher expectations for the grappler.

Thompson also has high hopes for senior Madison Evans. A medical condition prevented him from competing at the regional tournament, which was required for a chance to win a berth to the state tournament.

“I expect Evans to be a team leader this year, on and off the mat,” said Thompson of his only four-year wrestler this season. “He was real close to going to state last year. So if he goes out there and really works hard at practice and takes everything very seriously on the mat, I expect him to have a chance of going to state this year.”

Evans, who has wrestled since he was in the seventh grade, said he walked away from his junior season humbled. Having battled tough athletes throughout the season, he learned how to stay level from his mental approach to matches and tournaments.

Evans’ focus is set on getting back in the flow of wrestling in the early season practices. The coaches pointed out that he will need to broaden his arsenal of scoring moves from the top position. His favorite move is the

“barb wire”, where the wrestler squeezes an opponent’s arms together and then swings his legs around while slowly rolling them over onto their back.

But Evans knows he needs to practice other moves.

“That was probably my favorite move last year, and when I couldn’t get it, I kind of freaked out,” Evans said. “I’m going to try working half-nelsons this year and cradles.”

The Falcons open the season at the Return of the Seahawk Tournament at Chief Sealth High School on Dec. 5 in Seattle.

2015 Falcon wrestling schedule:

Saturday, Dec. 5 Return of the Seahawk Tournament

Saturday, Dec. 12 Iron Sharpens Iron

Saturday, Jan. 16 Sgt. Norton Memorial

Saturday, Jan. 16 King of the Mountain

Saturday Jan. 30 Cascade Conference Super Dual at Sultan High School

Saturday, Feb. 6 1A Sub-Regionals at Sultan High School

Saturday, Feb. 13 1A Regionals at TBD

Friday-Saturday Feb. 19-20 WIAA Mat Classic 1A Championships at Tacoma Dome