Even without a complete lineup, winning came naturally, almost easily, on the wrestling mat Thursday night.
Facing a Nooksack Valley team that lost three state tournament wrestles to Mount Baker this year and a Meridian squad, South Whidbey’s varsity wrestling team was by far the best on the floor at a North Cascades Conference triangular at Meridian High School Thursday night.
The Falcons beat both of the opposing teams, taking the Pioneers 46-21 even after giving up three forfeits, and outpointing Meridian 48-34.
Being the first meet of the year, this was also the first opportunity for some Falcons to compete against someone who was not a teammate. Senior Chris Long experienced both joy and pain in his return to the mat. Wrestling at 145 pounds, Long lost his first match of the night to Nooksack’s Justin Van Dyke in a grueling 9-4 match. But he came back later against Meridian’s Jerod Larson, pinning Larson in the first round to finish his effort for the night.
Perhaps the biggest match of the night was a matchup between Falcon 160 pounder Ben Harris and Nooksack’s Andrew Larson. The pair battled back and forth last year, with Larson getting the last word by beating Harris at the district tournament. With a measure of revenge on the line, Harris wrestled the closest, toughest contest of the night, just outpointing Larson 4-2.
Falcon coach Wes Helseth said the win was a big one for Harris.
“He had a vendetta and he settled it last night,” he said.
Harris also went on to pin Meridian’s Brent Froberg in the second round of a match later that night.
Other big wins for South Whidbey came largely from veteran wrestlers. Wrestling at 103 pounds, junior Phil Shorr won an opening match 8-2 against Nooksack’s Sam Larson before scoring a rare, first-round lightweight pin against Meridian’s Brandon Frost. At 189 pounds, Jason Gilberts picked up where graduate and state champion Brandon Hern left off in the weight class last year by pinning two opponents and keeping the Falcons undefeated in that class.
Sophomore Jason Mannie, who like Long was making his competitive debut this season, was another double winner with two pins of his own. Other winners were sophomore Tyler Rueth at 112 pounds, senior Sean Noste with two wins by fall at 152, Eric Flister at 130, senior Tyler Moser at and 171 pounds.
In a junior varsity meet the night before at South Whidbey High School, a number of other Falcon wrestlers found success.
Against competitors from Sultan, Granite Falls and Lakewood, 145-pounder Kyle Calkins, 160 pounder Matt Shea and Tyler Moser were all winners. Shea and Moser won by fall, while Calkins won a 15-8 decision. The meet was not scored for team points.
The Falcons compete next on Thursday at home in Erikson Gymnasium.