Thanks to a recent home match held at South Whidbey High School, Langley Middle School wrestler Joey Lane got to wrestle in front of his father.
Hosting middle schools Lakewood and Granite Falls, the Cougars competed on March 8 inside the high school’s main gymnasium.
Lane, a 105-pounder, won all three of his matches. He secured two of his victories with pins.
“It was cool because (my father) could see it happening instead of hearing it second-hand,” Lane said.
It was the first home match for the Cougars this season. It was also the first time in two years a wrestling match has been held in the gymnasium, after declining turnout in the high school’s Cascade Conference derailed league matches.
While official statistics were not recorded, plenty of Cougars won their matches on the day, including Joey Lane, Ethan Jovich, Kaidyn Brinks and Michael Cepowski.
First-year head wrestling coach Robbie Bozin was happy with his team’s performance. However, that feeling is not likely to ever change with Bozin.
“For the time we had to prep, I think we did good,” Bozin said. “Overall, I’m always a proud coach. They’re sticking it out through the whole year. We only have until next week and they’re sticking it out doing their hardest at practice.”
It was Bozin’s first opportunity to host a match as head coach of the program. Things ran smoothly, he said.
“It was an experience. You can only do so much to prepare and then the rest you just go with the flow and do the best you can,” Bozin said. “I think I did pretty good to prepare, I appreciate everyone else who stepped up and helped. It will be a little bit better next year.”
Bozin, the Cougars and South Whidbey head wrestling coach Jim Thompson set up two of the Falcons’ mats in the center of the gym. Falcon wrestlers Julian Fifield and Trevor Kleinfelder also lent a hand by helping the scorers table.
Wrestlers from all three schools were lined up along the bleachers and organized according to their weight. Before and after their matches, the middle schoolers joked and kidded with one another like it was recess. It made for a lighter atmosphere, Lane said, who had grown accustomed to the grim attitude wrestlers carry around at duals and tournaments. The friendly spirit quickly dissipated when the wrestlers hit the mat.
“It felt less serious today, which is a good thing,” Lane said. “It’s competitive once you get into the match. It felt more relaxed and you can actually make some friends from the other schools.”
Bozin highlighted Lane as one of the standouts of the day. He also had positive reviews for wrestlers Caleb McCarthy, Magnus Nyberg and Ethan Jovich. Bozin said one of his top wrestlers, eighth-grader Brady Willis, missed the match due to illness.
Lane, Willis and fellow eighth-graders Sam Martin and Michael Cepowski are wrestlers Bozin hopes will stick with the sport in high school.
Cepowski won his opening match with a quick pin, but ran into a tougher opponent from Lakewood later in the day.
“I reached back a little bit so that kind of did me over a bit,” Cepowski said. “He was able to get in the half (nelson) into me then, and he was pretty good with the half.”
Cepowski said his cradle was one his best moves.
Along with their success on the mat, Bozin said he has been proud of the way his athletes are performing in the classrooms. He said he’s doing his best to help prepare the wrestlers for the high school ranks under the tutelage of Thompson. The Cougars run drills and learn technique similar to the Falcons in an effort to seamlessly transition between the two.
“I think it was great. It was great to have the other teams show up,” Bozin said. “They were super appreciative and supportive. It’s all about mat time and as much mat time as they can get and that’s what I think we did today.”
“Thank you to South Whidbey High School for supporting this,” he added.
The Cougars will compete in the league championships March 17 at Granite Falls.