Bainbridge Wrestling Preview: Quality potential in eleven-man team

BHS senior Eli Narte practices with wrestling coach Dan Pippinger during practice last week. The Spartans have 11 wrestlers this season covering eight of the 14 weight classes. The season kicks off today with the Fife Takedown Tournament and continues up to the holiday break. -
BHS senior Eli Narte practices with wrestling coach Dan Pippinger during practice last week. The Spartans have 11 wrestlers this season covering eight of the 14 weight classes. The season kicks off today with the Fife Takedown Tournament and continues up to the holiday break.
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Individual attention a plus for wrestlers who have turned out.

Faced with the lowest turnout in his three years as Bainbridge High School wrestling coach, Dan Pippinger realizes that his team is unlikely to do well in the dual-meet season. His 11 wrestlers cover just eight of the 14 weight classes, meaning that the team will forfeit as many as six matches and have to overcome a 30-point deficit.

However, Pippinger sees a tremendous opportunity for those who are on the team.

“Wrestling is a technical sport that needs a lot of individual attention,” he points out. Along with assistant coach Matt Pedersen, who like Pippinger is a former Spartan wrestler and state meet entrant, Pippinger will be able to provide that individual attention because of the low numbers.

“It’s not great for dual meets,” he concedes. “But in the long run it may help guys get further.”

Something similar happened last year when the Spartans placed fifth in the Metro tournament. Yet as Pippinger said, “We had more guys in the finals than any other Metro team, and more guys (three) went to state than any other (Metro) team.”

He hopes to at least duplicate that number and perhaps even exceed it. His charges certainly have plenty of competitive opportunities. The season begins today at the Fife Takedown Tournament, continues tomorrow when the Spartans host Eastside Catholic and includes four more dual matches and two tournaments by the holiday break.

Unlike a number of the teams he’ll be facing, in something of an irony Pippinger has not just one wrestler at 103 pounds, the lowest weight class, he has two.

“Wrestling coaches are always begging for little guys,” he said.

One is sophomore Ethan Dingels, who missed all of last year due to a broken arm.

“But he did whatever he could,” Pippinger said. “He was always there, even with the cast. He even filmed matches and was a very big part of the team.”

The other “little guy” is the team’s lone freshman, Alec Greiwe. He was just one of three wrestlers in the eighth-grade program last year and the only one to join the Spartans this year. One of the other two is currently attending O’Dea and the third chose not to participate.

Greiwe has a great attitude, Pippinger said. “He works hard and wants to get better. He’ll grow into a pretty good wrestler.”

Pippinger is considering bumping one up to 112 pounds, but sounded a note of caution. “Both of them are still pretty young,” he said. “I don’t want to put them in situations where they could be hurt or badly defeated.”

Senior co-captain Eli Narte is a fixture at 135 pounds. “He’s a good leader and sets a good example,” Pippinger said. “He has a great style. He picked up a lot of things that work well for him.”

Narte won 25 of 36 individual matches last year – 16 of his victories were falls – and is the lone returnee among the three Spartans who advanced to the state tournament.

“I’m looking forward to seeing how far he can go at state this year,” Pippinger said.

At 145 pounds, senior Mike Furman is another solid wrestler. He went 12-11 last year, recording 10 falls.

“It will be fun to see him develop,” Pippinger said. “He’s not a captain, but he wants to be seen as a leader, to push other guys. I love that he went to regionals and was an alternate to state.”

Sophomore Bill Hepworth, also at 145 pounds, is returning to wrestling after being out for two years. “He has a great wrestling body, short and stout,” Pippinger said. “He’ll probably go down a weight class once he gets in shape.”

At 152 pounds, senior James Gaunivinaka went 12-14 last year with seven falls, and was an alternate to the regional tournament.

“He has a good attitude and works hard,” Pippinger said. “He sacrifices his body and does anything you tell him to do.”

Sophomore Corey Touchette wrestles at 160 pounds, and had a 7-13 record last year with four pins.

“He’s very positive,” said Pippinger. “It’s a huge jump from freshman to sophomore and he’s doing it very successfully. With a year of upward growth he should be very solid in the league by the end of the year.”

Junior Evan Jahrman will push Touchette. “He’s brand new to our program. He came from Meadowdale, where he had some experience and has good foundational skills. We’ll see how fast he can acclimate to our program.”

At 171 pounds, sophomore Karl Hunt went 3-14 last season but is “really developing into a wrestler,” Pippinger said. “He’s focused on doing things right. He’s got the fundamentals down, and now he’s picking up the intricacies.”

To Pippinger, senior co-captain Mason Remy is the poster boy for the team. “If I could clone Mason and have him at every weight, I’d do it,” Pippinger said. “In middle school, he didn’t have any wins and he had only one win as a freshman.”

But last year he went 24-10 with 15 falls and was one match away from state. He led the team with 177 points.

“From the level he came from to becoming one of the top wrestlers in his weight is rewarding and exciting to me as a coach,” Pippinger said.

“This year I’m sure he’ll not just go to state but do something he can be proud of. He’s committed to everything we do in workouts, and works very hard. It’ll be hard not to have him next year because of his level of commitment.

“Saying, ‘I wrestle’ is different from being a wrestler. It means figuring out what it means to be a wrestler rather than something you do.”

Sophomore heavyweight Enzo D’Angelo-Patricio comes from a wrestling background, as his father was on the same Spartan team as Pedersen.

“He’s destined to wrestle,” Pippinger said. “He has a lot of promise and just needs to get in shape.”

Pippinger anticipates a larger turnout next year.

“We’re focusing on the middle-school program and will have a summer camp,” he said.

He also welcomes boys who may still be looking for a winter sport.

“Anyone who comes in now would be behind, but we have the time to work with them,” he said.

He cites basketball as an example.

“Steve (Henderson, BHS varsity basketball coach) made his cuts not too long ago. Some of them would still like to do something, get involved. I’m hoping to hear from some of those kids.”

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