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WINTER SPORTS PREVIEW | BHS wrestlers hit the mat for debut match Saturday
One guy scooped up another and, in a blur of motion, slammed him down on his back onto the blue practice mat with a sickening thud.
Wrestlers call that a “takedown.”
“It’s very technical,” explained Spartan Head Coach Dan Pippinger. “There are hundreds of things you can decide to do on the mat.”
When most people think of wrestling they think of legends like Hulk Hogan or current heavyweight showmen like John Cena. Worlds away from the flash and theatre of televised wrestling, the actual sport itself is a complicated and difficult athletic endeavor that remains largely misunderstood.
“There are a lot of misconceptions about what it is and what it’s about,” Pippinger said of the sport. “You don’t necessarily have to be the best athlete, the strongest or the quickest, but you have to be the most mentally tough and willing to sacrifice and endure suffering and pain that others are not willing to.”
The wrestlers of the Bainbridge High varsity team anticipate enduring plenty this season, which began with their first match on the road against North Kitsap High at Kingston High at 10 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 7. This season, the athletes will compete in weight classes ranging from 120 to 220 pounds, and Bainbridge’s squad includes some seasoned veterans.
“We have several kids that are returning state participants from last year,” Pippinger said.
“Dylan Read placed seventh and I expect [he] will be in the top three, hopefully, with a shot at the title when state rolls around,” the Spartan coach said. “Mike Grant has been to state two other times and has a chance at a medal, especially dropping from 220 to 195 pounds.”
BHS has no shortage of experienced wrestlers looking to bring home some gold this year.
“Also returning from a trip to state are Jonathan Gallivan and Joaquin Gurza, who are also my team captains,” Pippinger said. “Jack Miller was a match away from state last year and has really pushed himself through a lot of mat time over the off season and really has a chance at a medal this year.”
Several wrestlers have yet to make it to state-level competition, but Pippinger said they are coming in this year much improved.
“Greg Williams comes in with some experience but has a long way to go to compete at the varsity level,” he said. “A couple of guys that are looking really good, but have not yet made it to state, are Laim Topham and Mike Hepworth.”
Assistant Coach Mike Fosmark said that experience is great, but sometimes a match comes down to sheer grit and determination.
“Sometimes you just have to suffer more than the other guy,” Fosmark said. “There are moves and there are counters. You have to have a drive within you to want to do your absolute best.”
Despite a smaller roster than last year, the coaches believe that superior technical skill will carry the team through.
Fosmark said that the BHS team is lucky to have a head coach like Pippinger, who instructs the athletes in every aspect of the sport.
“He shows details about foot placement and hand placement like a surgeon or precision mechanic,” Fosmark said. “A lot of other coaches, myself included, may not get into those details. If you came here to learn and be good at wrestling, he’s your guy.”
This season marks Pippinger’s ninth year as head coach for Bainbridge, a career that he began in 1998 as a volunteer assistant.
“Our toughest competition will come at our tournaments this year,” Pippinger said of the upcoming season.
And the Spartans won’t have the comforts of a home crowd in some of those matchups.
“Probably the best tournament we will go to is the Hammerhead Invite in Silverdale. It is a two-day, 32-man bracket that takes place Dec. 20 and 21.”
As for regular matches, Pippinger said that history will most likely repeat itself and Bainbridge will have to grapple, literally, with a familiar adversary.
“In our league I expect we will again be battling O’Dea for the league championship,” he said.
“It will be a difficult task to repeat as league champions since our numbers are down this year and we will be forfeiting several weights,” Pippinger added.
The BHS wrestling team will host its first match at home against teams from Franklin and Rainier Beach at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 18, just one day before two separate invitational events.
Pippinger refused to sugarcoat anything for the team, and laid out the requirements for victory from Day One: “The guys that have done well for me are the ones that understand if you want something, you are going to have to earn it.”