It’s easy to see Hunter Newman’s toughness on the mat.
When South Whidbey wrestling coach Jim Thompson dismissed his team for a quick water break in between drills at a recent practice, most of the grapplers walked toward the corner of the room for a refreshing splash of water.
The junior 145-pounder, who is currently 9-0 after winning three consecutive tournaments, stood still at the center of the mat room and waited for his teammates to return. Most of those who have endured a wrestling practice under Thompson know better than to skip a chance for a brief moment of relief from the grueling workout sessions. Thompson said that he and assistant coach Paul Newman, who is Hunter’s stepfather, sometimes have to force him to drink water to avoid dehydration. But it’s all part of a grander scheme, Hunter Newman said.
“When you’re thirsty in here, you’re going to be thirsty on the mat, so I’m trying to train myself not to be as thirsty at that time,” Newman said. “When I get my breaks after practice, I can drink water.”
After qualifying for the WIAA Mat Classic State Championships at 132 pounds a year ago, Newman has his eyes set on winning a state title this season. He’s off to a solid start, having climbed to a ninth-place ranking in Class 1A according to washingtonwrestlingreport.net.
Newman’s resolve is a testament to how far he’s willing to push himself.
“Wrestling is all toughness — it’s all you have,” Newman. “Yeah, there’s physical skill and mental skill, but all wrestling is toughness. What are you willing to put in and get out of it? The reward is greater than the sacrifice.”
Newman has been in and out of South Whidbey’s mat room since he was 3 years old. Thompson remembered a young Newman walking around the room with a puffed-out chest, ready for any and all challengers despite his small stature at the time.
Thompson said that in the years since, Newman has matured into a well-rounded wrestler with a solid head on his shoulders. He’s also taken notice of Newman’s determination to not let small injuries get in the way of his progression. He’s battled his way through aches and pains to continue competing. He also hasn’t let his undefeated record get in the way of his focus, all of which are signs of a good wrestler, Thompson said.
“He’s one of the toughest kids I’ve had,” Thompson said. “This year, I’ve never sat in the chair watching him wrestle where I thought he was going to lose a match.”
Falcon junior 182-pounder Logan Madsen has known Newman since the fifth grade. He’s always known him to be a tough-minded wrestler, but it wasn’t until high school that he saw his leadership qualities emerge. Madsen said that the intensity and focus that Newman brings every day to practice lifts up the rest of the team.
“He’s a lot more serious about wrestling than (senior Falcon Madison Evans) or any of the other leaders,” Madsen said. “He’s just all about it. And he pushes us toward greatness.”
Newman’s mental fortitude was tested at the Falcons’ most recent tournament. Newman advanced to the finals match and faced Shorecrest’s Luke Lotawa. Newman noticed prior to the match that Lotawa seemed a bit “cocky.” But, instead of using it as a form of motivation to win the match, Newman said that he kept a cool head with steady focus.
He went on to defeat Lotawa, 8-6, in overtime to defend his undefeated record. It was the most tightly contested match of Newman’s season thus far, though he’ll likely face a higher level of competition this weekend when the Falcons compete at the Everett Classic. The tournament typically consists of Class 3A and 4A teams, which bring a plethora of talent to the mats.
That fact, however, doesn’t bother Newman in the slightest.
“You can never doubt, because if you do, you’re going to lose,” Newman said.
Newman, who lost two matches and was eliminated from the Mat Classic last year, said he felt the sting of defeat up until the start of this wrestling season. It’s part of the reason why he’s pushed himself as hard as he has. He also said that his experience at state has brought a newfound calmness to his attitude prior to matches.
“Taking it one match at a time, working on what I need to get better at, and just do what I do,” Newman said.