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Commitment, courage are hallmarks of this year’s Spartan squad | WINTER SPORTS PREVIEW
The Spartan wrestling team has started the season surprisingly light in its lowest weight classes.
And Bainbridge doesn’t have much weight to throw around at the other end of the roster, either.
But if Bainbridge Coach Dan Pippinger is worried, it’s not easily evident.
Though his team has struggled to field competitors in the 106- and 113-pound weight classes at the start of this season — and his Spartan squad comes chock full of freshmen — he’s been encouraged by what he’s seen so far.
“There are a really good, solid group of seniors who have come out and are displaying great leadership,” Pippinger said. “And we have a really good group on the other end of freshmen.”
“Most of them are kind of really new to the sport,” he said.
That’s not the half of it, however.
“They are really committed, they are really focussed on learning and getting better,” Pippinger said. “This is the first year — and I hope this stays true — that I’ve pretty much had all of the guys who started on day one have stuck with it.”
“Usually by now I’ve had several guys decide wrestling’s not for them. This group has really had determination, and I think that comes from seeing the leadership and it obviously comes from their own desire to learn and be successful,” he said.
The team started the season with 23 on the roster, including 13 freshmen and sophomores, though it’s lighter than it should be at both the bottom and the top.
“I’m going to be giving up a couple weight classes at the bottom end for sure,” the coach said. “And I don’t really have a heavyweight.”
Pippinger does have two in the 220-pound weight class, though, leading to the likelihood that someone will be wrestling up at some point in the season.
“Depending on the night, one of them may bump up and wrestle heavyweight that night,” he said.
The other big unknown is how the youngest members of the team will fare in a sport know for its high share of successes and setbacks.
“For some of these kids who don’t have any experience, it’s sort of like throwing them into the deep end of the pool and they will have to figure out how to swim,” he said.
“And they will.”
The Spartans’ newest wrestlers are picking up the sport well, which is no small feat.
“It’s such a technical sport. There’s so many things; you have to break your inclinations, the natural inclinations, that you might have that can get you in trouble.
“It just takes lot of mat experience to become a good wrestler. You can’t expect to just go out on the mat and be successful right away,” the coach said.
“When you look at wrestlers, there’s no formula,” he added.
Some try to win with muscle alone; others are more fluid, fast or smooth.
Winning is one thing. Going out on the mat, trying with everything you’ve got but still getting pinned, and then learning from such a loss, is another.
“How do you come back from that and not let it keep you down? The question is, how are they going to deal with adversity,” Pippinger said.
Practices started the second week in November, and Bainbridge started the season with a 36-34 loss in Kingston.
Metro competition is expected to be tough, though the Spartans emerged victorious against Franklin-Rainier Beach and Nathan Hale-Cleveland in the last two dual meets.
“O’Dea always has athletes and I know that for sure they’ve got a couple of good kids returning,” Pippinger said, but he added that the Fighting Irish don’t have the power throughout their lineup that they have had in past years.
Bainbridge will battle O’Dea on Dec. 20 in Seattle.
Blanchet is probably going to have a pretty solid lineup, he added.
That said, Pippinger, a Bainbridge grad who is now in his sixth year as coach, likes the Spartans’ chances this year.
“I really expect that at the end of the day that we’re going to come out on top in the Metro League, just based on what I see returning on our team.”
“If we wrestle to our potential, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t expect to be at the top of the league,” he said.
“The motivation is definitely there.”
Top returners for the Spartans include Weber Coryell, a veteran of the state Mat Classic.
“He’ll be a great one to watch,” Pippinger said of the senior who has been competing in the 182-pound class.
Tyler Moniz, a senior who is wrestling at 195, also went to state last year.
“Tyler didn’t start as early as Weber did, but he’s really caught up,” the coach said.
Not that Coryell is content to let things sit there.
“They really push each other. They’re iron sharpening iron, which is great,” Pippinger said.
The Spartan coach also noted the leadership and hard work ethic shown by Bryce MacDonald.
“He’s stepping up as a senior,” the coach said. “He works really hard.”
Last year, the Spartans finished second in the league behind O’Dea. Nine Bainbridge wrestlers went to state; no other 3A team took more.
“I think as a team we really have pretty high expectations,” Pippinger said. “The expectations are that guys rise and step up to a standard and that there’s an expectation that we’re going to be successful,” he said.
“Wrestling is kind of a blue-collar sport, so to speak. It’s about hard work, it’s about improving yourself, making yourself into what you want to be.
“They don’t just want to show up and participate,” he added. “We want to accomplish something.”