A younger and smaller wrestling team at South Whidbey High School is fighting its way to stay on top.
The Falcon wrestlers are in the midst of their season, which has been complicated by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Matches have been tough to secure for athletes, and the team has shrunk in numbers when the opportunity to recruit new wrestlers was lost because of a substantially adjusted season last year.
In a couple of weeks, this year’s crop of wrestlers will head into district, regional and state championships.
The Falcons scored a third-place finish at a recent tournament in Bellingham. The team’s next big tournament is the Sgt. Justin Norton Memorial Tournament at Rainier High School this weekend. In addition, there will be a home dual meet against Granite Falls this Thursday, Jan. 20.
Boys and girls wrestle together on South Whidbey’s team, which includes 12 boys and two girls. Apart from one senior and two juniors, the team consists entirely of underclassmen.
“We are rebuilding our team and look forward to finishing the season strong and confident (that) we will have some wrestlers competing at the state tournament in February,” Coach John Sommer said.
Freshman Kaylie Baker has had an impressive start to her season, with a 9-3 record. Wrestling at 145 pounds, she has pinned mostly male opponents and was the only member of the team participating in this year’s Everett Classic girls wrestling tournament.
Her older brother convinced her to join the team. She has not been deterred when it comes to grappling with the opposite gender out on the mat.
“It’s fun all around, whoever I get to wrestle,” she said.
She added that “the gals are more flexible” and harder to pin.
“I don’t really have a strategy,” she said. “I’m pretty new to this.”
She already has plans to wrestle again on the team next year.
At a match against Seattle Academy on Thursday, Sommer watched Baker pin an opponent in a mere minute and 13 seconds.
“For context, that is really fast,” he said.
Sommer said another standout on the team is Smokey McClure, a sophomore wrestling at 145 pounds. Last October he placed first in the USA Wrestling Brian Keck Pre-Season Nationals in Iowa. As a freshman, he won the Washington State Wrestling Association Washington Super State at 132 pounds. McClure is undefeated so far this season.