The South Whidbey High School wrestling team is young, but it doesn’t lack varsity experience.
Of the 10 returning athletes who were major contributors last year, only one is a senior.
The group is led by three state qualifiers: senior Clay O’Brien, junior Kobe Balora and sophomore Drew Aposhyan.
Also returning are juniors Dayton Birchfield, Dillon Davis, Nicole Helseth and Cameron Martin and sophomores Caleb McArthur, Justin Moberly and Magnus Nyberg.
The group helped the Falcons finish fourth in the region and 29th in the state last year.
Key newcomers, according to coach Robbie Bozin, are freshmen Zane Balora and Eden Batiste.
The veteran group should help the Falcons improve upon last winter’s 2-6 dual meet record and push the team up the standings at tournaments, according to Bozin.
“Last year we competed; this year we should be more competitive,” he said.
“The main focus right now is getting the kids to district,” he added. “We want to be wrestling our best at district, regional and state.”
Bozin, who is in his second year as head coach, said the team is “believing in the system.”
Last year was an adjustment period, he said, and the team is “working hard and more focused” this season.
“You can see the team believing in each other and the coaches,” Bozin said. “And I’m learning as a new coach.”
Bozin likes the direction of the program. When he started as the middle school coach four years ago and at the high school last year, turnout was in single digits. Now the teams boast rosters in the 20s.
The infusion of talent on the high school team this year includes several football players and other athletes out for the first time, Bosin said.
“We want to take our kids to state,” he said. “We want to put South Whidbey on the map.”
The Falcons open the season at the Return of the Seahawk tournament at Chief Sealth High School Saturday, Dec. 1. Four other tournaments will follow before South Whidbey begins dual competition.
The first home match is a double dual with Darrington and Friday Harbor at 5 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 17.