Robbie Bozin knew one day he’d be a head wrestling coach for a high school program.
When that would be, however, was a different question. The 28-year-old former collegiate wrestler had experience under his belt after coaching the Langley Middle School team in 2016.
He knew longtime high school wrestling coach Jim Thompson would eventually step down, but even if he did, he wasn’t sure he had enough experience.
When Thompson retired in February after 13 years, South Whidbey Athletic Director Paul Lagerstedt offered Bozin the job.
“I did think long and hard about it,” Bozin said. “I didn’t know if I was ready for it.”
He later accepted the position. Bozin is one of two new head coaches for winter Falcon sports teams, the other being girls basketball coach Jeff Hanson.
Whatever concerns Bozin had about a lack of experience were overruled by a feeling of obligation to the wrestlers he coached at the middle school. He’ll continue to coach the Cougars when their season begins in January.
Bozin also hopes to stay with the Falcons for as long as they’ll have him.
“It was all for the kids, to tell you the truth,” Bozin said. “…I didn’t think I would get into it this early. But, things happen for a reason and you kind of jump on the opportunity and go for it — that’s been my motto.”
His middle school wrestlers told him that if he took the job, they would continue grappling as freshmen. It’s evident they followed through on their word. Almost half of the Falcon team, totaling about 22 grapplers, is composed of freshmen. One of them is 120-pounder Drew Apohshyan.
“I definitely wanted to come out anyway because I love the sport, but Robbie definitely got me excited for the season,” Apohshyan said.
“He’s definitely an awesome coach.”
Apohshyan added Bozin’s relative youth makes it easy to connect with him. He also said he’s constructive in his criticism.
Bozin, who works part-time at Whidbey Water Service, admitted the Falcons have a long way to go before they can establish themselves as a force to be reckoned with. He hopes by instituting a morning workout program, affectionately known as “Guts,” and running tough practices, they’ll be a well conditioned team with a strong will to win. He’s also trying to balance his practices so they’re both helpful to the younger players as well as the more experienced veterans.
The Falcons got their first taste of action this past weekend at the Return of the Seahawk tournament at Chief Sealth High School. South Whibdey placed 13th out of 23 teams. Junior 152-pounder Aryeh Rohde placed second, while junior Alex Turner and freshman Soren Bratrude tied for fifth at 182 pounds and 113 pounds, respectively.
Bozin has plenty of help at his side in the mat room with three assistant coaches: longtime assistant Paul Newman, former head coach Wes Helseth and newcomer Roc Dahle, who helped Bozin coach the Cougars this past season.
“He brings a good dimension of youngness and life into it,” Newman said. “He brought the kids up from the middle school, which helps. He’s really personable and really likes the kids.”
Hanson is also settling in. He replaces former head coach Andy Davis, who stepped away after seven seasons. Hanson was Davis’s assistant coach for years. Hanson said one of the main reasons he took the job was to provide continuity for the team, especially the seniors.
“It’s been pretty smooth,” Hanson said. “I know most of the girls. They’re a great group of kids.”
As seamless as the transition has been for Hanson and the girls, it’s been a bumpy start to the season for the team.
The Falcons are 1-2 overall after dropping their previous game to Archbishop Murphy (4-0) 65-16 on Tuesday, Dec. 5. The players are also going through a bout of illnesses, and starting center senior Mackenzee Collins may be out for the season due to a broken big toe.
The Falcons played another undefeated Cascade Conference opponent Cedarcrest (4-0) on Friday night after The Record’s deadline.
“We may have our toughest week on the schedule right now,” Hanson said. “We’ve got to get through this and keep getting better.”
Hanson, who was a starting point guard for the Falcons’ boys basketball team in the mid-1980s that qualified for state twice and reached the semifinals, said he doesn’t have any specific goals for the season, other than for the Falcons to play their best. The rest will sort itself out.
“I don’t look that far ahead as far as goals,” Hanson said. “I’d love to see us make districts. After that, I’d love to see us go to bi-districts. After that, I’d love to see us go to state.”
“But, we got a long way to go.”