Evan Thompson / The Record — South Whidbey wrestling coach Robbie Bozin teaches technique at a recent practice. Bozin replaced former coach Jim Thompson as the Falcons’ new coach.

Evan Thompson / The Record — South Whidbey wrestling coach Robbie Bozin teaches technique at a recent practice. Bozin replaced former coach Jim Thompson as the Falcons’ new coach.

First-year head coaches settling into new roles

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.”

Evan Thompson / The Record — Jeff Hanson, South Whidbey’s new girls basketball coach, leads a drill at practice on Thursday.

Evan Thompson / The Record — Jeff Hanson, South Whidbey’s new girls basketball coach, leads a drill at practice on Thursday.

More in Sports

Future of SW basketball on display at camp

The hall leading to the South Whidbey High School gymnasium is adorned… Continue reading

Heggenes, Pope receive Cliff Gillies Award

Seniors Kolby Heggenes and Lewis Pope were the recipients of this year’s… Continue reading

South Whidbey grads find success at collegiate level / Alumni update

A handful of South Whidbey High School graduates are continuing their athletic… Continue reading

South Whidbey athletes receive letters, awards

South Whidbey High School wrapped up the 2018 spring sports season by… Continue reading

Cascade Conference honors South Whidbey players, coaches

Twenty-one South Whidbey High School spring athletes earned all-Cascade Conference first-team honors… Continue reading

Falcons comment on state experience / Tennis

Mental and physical growth helped South Whidbey junior Mary Zisette and sophomore… Continue reading

Falcons take early exit at state / Softball

The South Whidbey High School softball team dropped both its games at… Continue reading

Papritz, Zisette place 2nd in state doubles tournament / Tennis

South Whidbey High School’s Alison Papritz and Mary Zisette swatted their way… Continue reading

Nielsen paces SW at state with 4 medals / Track

South Whidbey’s Sophia Nielsen led the Falcons at the state 1A track… Continue reading

SW grads qualify for national tournament / Ultimate frisbee

Two South Whidbey High School graduates have tossed their way to the… Continue reading

Heggenes 3rd, Falcons 4th at state tournament / Girls golf

Kolby Heggenes placed third and South Whidbey High School fourth at the… Continue reading

South Whidbey finishes 9th at state / Boys golf

The South Whidbey High School boys golf team placed ninth at the… Continue reading