Luciano Marano | Bainbridge Island Review - Bainbridge High School varsity wrestling team Head Coach Dan Pippinger talks with the squad during a recent practice session.

Luciano Marano | Bainbridge Island Review - Bainbridge High School varsity wrestling team Head Coach Dan Pippinger talks with the squad during a recent practice session.

2019 Spartan Winter Sports Preview | Young and hungry: Minus key returner, island wrestling squad is mostly green, lean

There is both a science and an art to wrestling well.

Technical proficiency and creative intuitiveness are the two conflicting heads of the beast, and this year’s Bainbridge High School squad is captained by athletes of both philosophies.

Ben Dunscombe, a junior, is an artist.

Senior Sagel Bush is a technician.

“It’s a good balance,” said BHS Head Coach Dan Pippinger. “Ben likes by nature to be creative with wrestling, he likes to play with it. I think that’s what he enjoys about it, that aspect of it.

“[Sagel] works really hard and she is more of [the type who] wants to really kind of hone in on the technical aspect and be really, really clear about if she’s doing it right.”

Together the dissimilar duo — along with a third co-captain, returning junior bruiser Doug Takada, who, having been sidelined by a preseason broken arm, will act more as a mentor and advisor — will lead this year’s 18-student strong team, five of whom are females, more than ever before.

But, although it’s a banner year for the program’s diversity gender-wise, this season’s Spartan squad is all but rigidly uniform in another regard.

“The big gene is not huge on Bainbridge,” Pippinger said. “We’re kind of light to the middle. We definitely could use more of the upper weights.”

A freshman, Wyatt Goad, is the team’s de facto heavyweight, set to compete at 195 pounds.

“He has done some stuff over the last few years with me as a middle schooler, during … the club season,” the coach said.

“And he’s been really committed to off-season workouts and training and that kind of thing. So it’s fun to see him develop, because he’s really developed over the last year, gotten stronger and more coordinated. And you can see he’s really close on some things. Once those things click for him, it’ll be a good breakthrough for him and he’ll find some success.”

On the other end of the age spectrum are two seniors new to the sport: Beck Gibson and Christopher Longridge.

“They’re doing great for where they’re at,” Pippinger said. “They’re really learning and [are] tuned in. And, just by the fact of being older, [they] are able to be a bit more of mature leader types.”

Along with Sagel, the team’s returning females are juniors Caroline Michaels and Katherine Irvin. New to the team are Victoria Hutt, a junior, and Aubrie Ackland, a sophomore.

The team’s freshmen are, in addition to Goad, Asher Lane and Quentin Ikuse.

The other sophomores are Harrison Cate and Levi Field-Bennett.

Garrett Swanson, a junior, is also returning.

With so many novice grapplers at every grade level and weight, Pippinger said this year’s early season training has, even more so than usual, focused on the basics.

“We’re all in the same spot,” he said. “We’re going through this slow. We’re going through it by steps. We’re going to tune in to, whether you’re doing it for the first time or for the hundredth time, are you tuned in to how you’re doing it and what makes it effective?”

Wrestling, the coach said, is remarkably similar at every level of competition.

“It’s not any different than when I watched the guys at the Olympic training center,” he said.

“We work on a double-leg takedown, they work on a double-leg takedown. At the Olympics, they’re shooting a swing single. We shoot a swing single. It’s the same. There are no magic moves out there that they know when they get older. The best in the world are doing the basic fundamental moves, just they’re a little bit more deceptive with it. They’re a little bit more quick with it. They know how to react a little bit better. It’s all being able to fine-tune your technique and then being able to execute, feel it, and create your opportunities.”

This year’s training schedule has also been compressed, Pippinger said, so as to not overload the students and give ample time for refinement of those staple techniques.

“They’re learning pretty well,” the coach said. “There has been a little bit of sickness, injury, Thanksgiving break stuff.”

Overall, however, things are shaping up nicely. The team emerged victorious from their first match, a doubleheader against Eastside Catholic and O’Dea at home on Dec. 5, one of only three times this year the Spartans will host a meet in Paski Gymnasium.

The next, on Jan. 11, is the annual Island Invitational tournament, a centerpiece of the season, which is set to feature 13 teams.

Finally, they will again wrestle in Paski on Jan. 23, against Roosevelt and Ballard.

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