Middle weights buttress grapplers -- SPORTS PREVIEW
June 9, 2008 · Updated 7:30 PM
"Coming off the first season in 18 years that his team failed to place a competitor at the state meet is challenge enough for Steve Hohl and his coaches.Throwing a new weight-classification system at his Bainbridge High School wrestling program on top of that could have made their job a nearly impossible one.Instead, Hohl sees it as an advantage. The Spartans strength is in the middle weights, Hohl said, and the new system squeezes out the extreme weight classes such as 101 and 275 pounds for a more median approach.As a result, the Spartans 7-7 last year will likely improve on last years fifth-place finish as they opened with meets this week against Nathan Hale and North Mason.We should be better this year, Hohl said.An intensive recruiting effort has filled the holes left by three top seniors last season Ned Carner, Peter Lofgren and Erik Schei with a mix of talented freshmen and upper-class lettermen.Heres a weight-by-weight look at the key members of this years roster:l 103 pounds. Freshman Steve Devine is a bit light, at 92 pounds, and fellow freshman Alonso Valenzuela, is close to making the weight. Both should be season-long contributors.l 112 pounds. The vacant position could be filled by either Devine or Valenzuela. Or Hohl may have to continue recruiting.l 119 pounds. Junior Travis Dever, a two-letter winner who posted an 18-9 record at 101 pounds last year, is the class of this class.l 125 pounds. Junior John Merkel, 14-14 last year, could be this seasons Schei-like surprise. Like Schei, Merkel spent part of last summer at the legendary J. Robinson prep wrestling camp in California. Based on what he learned in the quasi-military workout, Schei reversed a mediocre junior-season campaign into a 25-win season.l 130 pounds. Freshman Derek Jones holds the slot for Chris McKay, a richly talented athlete still acquiring the requisite number of preseason practices to compete.l 135 pounds. Its the exclusive province of Brandon Nall, coming off a 16-15 sophomore season.l 140 pounds. Fellow junior Mike Roe is similarly secure in the slot after a 15-13 season.l 145 pounds. Sophomore Jacob Hayashi moves up from the junior-varsity squad, where he posted a 13-13 mark and led the squad with 10 pins. He may be pushed by junior Joey Mankes, who posted an 8-9 record as a sophomore.l 152 pounds. Senior co-captain Michael Penn starts the season at 160 pounds but will drop back as soon as he makes the weight. Penn, who went 8-16 as a junior wrestling at 148 pounds, one of the states toughest weight classes, hopes for a breakthrough campaign.I want to make it at least to regionals this year, and walk away knowing that I was in the best shape Ive ever been in, he said. I have high hopes for the season. I look for success out of a lot of people, and we should pull up some wins that we didnt get last year.l 160 pounds. Senior Justin Hanseth, like Penn, is a team co-captain. Also like Penn, hell likely be dropping in weight after starting the season at 171 pounds. He finished 15-12 last year.Were ahead of where weve been in the past, and we should have a pretty good year, Hanseth said. Im feeling pretty good and working really hard.l 171 pounds. Zack Ahneman, another J. Robinson alum, may drop down here after Hanseth vacates this weight.l 189 pounds. Junior Dan Siegel, 5-8 on the JV squad last year, may vie for mat tie with freshman Peter Mandell.l 215 pounds. Senior Ben Blakey, a wrestling newcomer, holds down this position. He may drop down to 189.l Heavyweight. Nick McCallum, a 203-pound freshman, has potential but needs to put on bulk to fill this role. The only other possibility is 253-pound junior Joe Vreedenburgh.Working with Hohl on a roster of 30-plus wrestlers are Britton Johnson, who effectively took over floor duties last year, along with alums Danny Pippinger, Mark Pedersen, Chuck Gilmore and Anh Tran all former BHS state-level competitors.Frosh McCallum dominates openerFreshman Nick McCallum put an emphatic exclamation point on Bainbridges 55-21 season-opener home victory over Nathan Hale Thursday.McCallum, in his first varsity match, gave up 45 pounds to his opponent, Miles Matsen, in the heavyweight class. But that didnt stop the 203-pounder from pinning his foe just 57 seconds into the second period.Other Bainbridge winners were Steve Devine (103 pounds, forfeit), Travis Dever (119 pounds, 11-4 decision), Brandon Nall (135 pounds, 16-2 decision), Jacob Hayashi (145 pounds, pin, 1:27 2nd), Joey Mankes (152 pounds, pin, 1:30 1st), Michael Penn (160 pounds, 4-2 decision), Justin Hanseth (171 pounds, pin, 1:45 2nd) and in the nights fastest decision, Zack Ahneman (189 pounds, pin, 0:48 1st).In addition, all four junior-varsity wrestlers Nick Sturza, Dan Bachen, Pat Taylor and Dan Siegel won their matches with pins.I was a little worried about the lower weights, and I still would like a true heavyweight, coach Steve Hohl said.But I was very pleased with Nick McCallum and Zach Ahneman.Wrestling scheduleDec. 9 at Sequim, 5:30/7 p.m.Dec. 10 at Oly. JV Tourney, 5 p.m.Dec. 10-11 at White River Classic IX, 5 p.m.Dec. 11 at Snohomish JV Tourney, 10 a.m.Dec. 11 at Port Angeles JV Go Round, 10 a.m.Dec. 15 vs. OIympic, 5:30/7 p.m.Dec. 16 vs. Port Angeles, 5:30/7 p.m.Dec. 18 at Shelton Invitat., 1 p.m.Dec. 30 at Curtis/Stadium/Clover Park, 11 a.m.Dec. 30 at Hawkins Memorial JV Tourney, North Mason, 10 a.m.Jan. 6 vs. CK, 5:30/7 p.m. Jan. 8 at Shorewood Invite, 10 a.m.Jan. 8 Marysville JV Tourney, 10 a.m.Thurs., Jan 13 at Bremerton, 5:30/7 p.m.Jan. 15 Island Institutional, 10 a.m.Jan. 19 vs. PT, 5:30/7 p.m.Jan. 20 at Klahowya, 5:30/7 p.m.Jan. 27 at North Kitsap, 5:30/7 p.m.Jan. 29 JV Qualifying Tourney, Yelm, 10 a.m.Feb. 2, 4-5 PCL-Olympic District Meet, Clover Park, 5 p.m.Sat., Feb. 11 Regional II Tournament, TBAFeb. 18-19 State Tournament/Mat Classic X, Tacoma Dome, 10 a.m."