Sports

The three Musketeers

Kings of the pin — Daniel Smith, top, Buddy Bennett, above, and Dustin Heistand, left, share identical 7-0 records that has helped the Knights to a 5-2 team record in the season’s early going. - Photo by Jesse Beals
Kings of the pin — Daniel Smith, top, Buddy Bennett, above, and Dustin Heistand, left, share identical 7-0 records that has helped the Knights to a 5-2 team record in the season’s early going.
— image credit: Photo by Jesse Beals

Just like the swashbuckling swordsmen of the Alexander Dumas book, The Three Musketeers, Bremerton wrestlers Daniel Smith, Buddy Bennett and Dustin Heistand are leaving a trail of bodies across the mats this year.

All three are undefeated through their seven individual matches this year.

They have literally turned a program that was laughed at throughout Bremerton High School a year ago into something that students can’t stop talking about.

Smith, who wrestled 48 matches in California last year before returning to Bremerton High School, has pinned every opponent he has faced in the 152 weight division.

Buddy Bennet (145) and Dustin Heistand (140) have pinned five of their seven.

“It’s nice to be the big names around the league,” said Heistand, the most jocular of the three.

“It makes us more aggressive,” added Smith. “We’ve got to go out on the mat and defend our name. Everyone looks up to us now. I can feel it in the school. Before they were dissing on us.”

Smith, 17, has been wrestling since he was a 40-pound 3-year-old. His dad stuck him in some junior programs against kids twice his size. He’s loved the sport ever since.

“It’s just the fact that it’s individual but it’s also a team sport. I don’t have to depend on other guys to win the match, but I do depend on guys for support.”

Heistand, 17, started when he was 5, and Buddy Bennett, 16, is the newcomer to the sport, starting in the seventh grade.

Heistand started to say he liked wrestling because he likes to hurt people, but he rephrased the question a second later at his coach’s urging.

“I like being physical. It runs in the family. I’ve got a wrestling family.”

Heistand’s father, Danny, and uncle, Dick, wrestled for Bremerton in the 1970s. His cousins Kyle, Justin and Randy also did their share of grappling.

“It’s all for one and one for all,” Heistand said about his teammates. They are the leaders on the team. Even when coach Jeff Barton gets stressed over a match, they are the first to tell him not to worry.

In their matches Monday against Gig Harbor, Bennett pinned his opponent Mark McKinney in 26 seconds. Smith pinned Sam Easton in 39 seconds, and Heistand pinned Brad Harris 1:39 to help the Knights dominate the night 64-9.

“Generally speaking, that’s not the norm to get pins that fast,” Barton said. “You can see the momentum for the team build. That’s what we talk about all the time in the room. Keeping guys on their back, not only turning them but keeping them there.”

Barton is a no-nonsense coach who expects the same from his wrestlers.

“I don’t believe in talking,” he said. “What you do on the mat speaks volumes.”

He has helped orchestrate a tremendous turnaround for the Knights since their 0-9 season last year.

Already, they are 5-2 overall, and 1-1 against the Bridge Division.

They lost their Bridge opener Dec. 11 to Central Kitsap by a narrow 40-31 margin and followed that two days later with a 2-1 showing at the Olympic Team Tournament where they tied for third place (see scores on page A8.)

Unfortunately, the “Three Musketeers” didn’t have a chance to try their skills out at South Kitsap for their team’s match on Thursday. Instead the three, plus Tim Noles (112) and Barry Sykes (189), are going over to this weekend’s Tri-State Tournament in Couer ‘d Alene, Idaho to test their skills against some of the best wrestlers from Washington, Oregon and Idaho.

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