Grapplers look to learn from early lumps


Sports editor

With Bremerton at 1-4 heading into today’s Olympic Duals team tournament, the Knights wrestling squad has taken a few drubbings.

And while the team blends a mix of youth and experience, coach Jeff Barton said the team is going to continue to learn on the job this season.

“We’re gonna take our lumps against some really tough teams,” Barton said. “I’m excited for Saturday, but I’m a little nervous too.”

The Knights picked up their first team win of the season Wednesday with a 54-24 victory against Kingston as Bremerton hosted the Bucs, Olympic and Port Townsend. The Knights almost won both Wednesday’s duels, falling 47-35 to the Redskins in the opener.

“We let that first one get away from us,” Barton said. “We just have guys not in the right weight classes yet.”

As a result, the Knights have had to forfeit several weights early in the year, with those forfeits also playing a large role in the team’s three losses Saturday at the George Yonlik Wrestlerama tournament last Saturday in Bellingham.

“It’s frustrating with the forfeits part,” Barton said. “We’re giving away three or four weight classes a match. It’s just kind of tough to do that.”

But as the season progresses, Barton hopes with 38 kids out this season, they’ll be able to fill those holes.

Leading the Knights back this season is Billy Richardson. Last year, the standout finished third at Mat Classic, the state’s wrestling championships, at 103 pounds. This year, Richardson is moving up to 112.

“We’re excited for him,” Barton said. “He has some pretty lofty goals. He was third last year and he wants to do better this year.”

Richardson has had no problem making the transition in the early going, pinning Kingston’s Logan Hickston in 1 minute, 35 seconds and defeating Ryan Umbedacht of Port Townsend by technical fall, 17-2.

Richardson’s sister, Lauren, is out this season as well at 103 pounds as a freshman, one of several freshmen eligible to join the team this year.

Barton said she too will be a tough competitor, much like her older brother.

“She’ll be in the girls tourney,” Barton said. “And our other kid at 103, Bobby Dingle, he’s scrappy too.”

Barton said the team’s strengths will be its lower weights in the early going.

“Our little guys have started out dynamically,” he said. “They’re little buzz saws.”

Jordan Hernandez-Jones returns at 119 this season, while Cody King (125), Mark Ebbay (130) and Chris Fleming (152) are also back.

At the upper weights however, Barton said the team will be learning.

“We’re really young up top,” Barton said. “We’ve got a lot of second-year wrestlers up top.”

That includes wrestlers like Justin McClain (171), Glen Calnan (189), Andres Garcia (215) and Matt Montgomery (285).

Montgomery stepped on the mats for the first time on Wednesday, falling to Port Townsend’s Chris Fetterman in a pin before rebounding with his first win, pinning Roy Sweringen of Kingston in 3:44. The dual meet was also Sweringen’s debut.

“That was really exciting,” Barton said. “Both heavyweights, their first night wrestling; it’s pretty exciting for them.”

While the Knights have taken some early lumps, as Barton said, the squad was pumped for the first win.

“Being our first win, that’s a good starting point,” he said. “It’s exciting to see a win like that.”

With a handful of matches under their belts now, Barton said he’s seen some things about his team he’s liked and others he hopes to help his squad improve on.

“We’re really aggressive,” he said. “And I like that aggressiveness, but sometimes we’re a little out of control. They don’t understand when you put a guy on his back, you’ve got to calm down and cinch things up.”

Barton also wants to see his squad exercising the knowledge their learning.

“My returning guys need to be a little more disciplined,” he said. “We’re a little sloppy right now. I want to see (all of) them doing what we’ve been teaching them in the weight room. The little things like not locking hands.”

But he anticipates those problems will smooth out sooner than later.

“These kids listen and are coachable,” Barton said. “I know that about my team.”

And with a win now, Barton hopes the Knights will stay hungry for more.

“This is a stepping stone, a building block for us tonight,” he said.

The Knights are at the Olympic Duals Wrestling Tournament beginning at 9 a.m. today at the Kitsap Fairgrounds Pavilion.

This year, host Olympic and local schools Central Kitsap, Klahowya, North Kitsap and Bremerton are joined by Olympia, Sequim, Gonzaga Prep (Spokane), Evergreen (Vancouver), Hudson’s Bay, Davis (Yakima), Bethel, Graham-Kapowsin, Wenatchee, Auburn-Riverside and Marysville-Pilchuck.

Cost for adults is $8, while students, seniors and children can get in for $4. Children 5 years old and younger will be admitted for free, as will Olympic students with a valid ASB card.

Bremerton’s second and last home meet of the season is Wednesday at 5 p.m. as the Knights host Sequim on Senior Night.

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