Bye, bye Billy

Andres Garcia, right, is one of the Knights’ biggest grapplers, competing at 215 pounds. - Jesse Beals/file photo
Andres Garcia, right, is one of the Knights’ biggest grapplers, competing at 215 pounds.
— image credit: Jesse Beals/file photo

Departure of Billy Richardson opens door for younger sister, Lauren.

Former Knight Billy Richardson, one of Bremerton’s most accomplished wrestlers, took his moves to the Rocky Mountains.

Twice finishing in the top six at Mat Classic, Washington state’s wrestling championships, including a third-place finish in 2007, the wiry grappler now wrestles for Mesa State College in Colorado, leaving both his mark and legacy on Bremerton’s mats.

But his departure has opened the door for up-and-coming Knight wrestlers to step in — including younger sister, Lauren Richardson.

“Billy is Billy, he’s a phenomenal wrestler,” coach Jeff Barton said. “It was fun having him for four years, but now he’s gone.”

So sophomore Lauren, who Barton said is the team’s top 103-pound wrestler, figures to pick up where Billy left off, assuming the nickname “buzz saw” for her quickness and energy.

“She’s not your typical young lady,” Barton said. “She’s one of our very dominant little wrestlers (who’s) going to do real well for us.”

And with a second-place finish at the Davis Invite last Saturday, where Bremerton finished fifth overall, she is off on the right foot and ready to compete today in the 16-team Olympic Duals at the Kitsap Fairgrounds’ Pavilion.

A trio of 112-pounders — sophomore Bobby Dingle, and freshmen Anthony Groat and Luke Foiles — comprise what Barton called “a really good young nucleus of little wrestlers,” which should enable Bremerton to compete in dual matches despite having little depth at the heavier weights.

“I just love them, they are just fun to watch,” Barton said of the trio. “I’m hoping they’ll develop and get better as the season goes along.”

Dingle is the veteran of the three, having wrestled varsity at 103 last year, but Groat and Foiles have emerged on the scene quickly.

Groat placed second at 112 at the Timberline Invite last Saturday, where half the team competed while the other half traveled to Davis.

The Knights, however, are thin above 140. Barton has no wrestlers at 189, meaning the team must forfeit those matches, but has three wrestlers at 215. Senior Andres Garcia is a legitimate anchor at 215, but Barton said he’d like to see more wrestlers turn out to give the Knights more balance in the heavy divisions.

“For whatever reason, we don’t get a lot of big guys turning out,” Barton said. “That’s what really keeps us, I believe, from getting to that next level.”

That thinness puts Barton in a predicament; he must choose between forfeiting certain weights or putting freshmen in matches they aren’t ready for.

“I hate to forfeit, but I also hate to lose,” Barton said. “It’s kind of deflating for the team... we can’t compete against teams with a full lineup because we don’t have the depth to match up.”

Twelve upperclassmen sprinkle the roster, but the remaining wrestlers — more than half the team — are freshmen and sophomores.

“They’ll have their day, but I don’t want to throw them out there if I don’t have to,” Barton said of the underclassmen. “I hate to put kids in tough spots.”

So the Knights figure to struggle in dual matches, where points are earned in all the weight classes, but hold their own in tournaments, which allow teams to enter multiple individuals at the same weight.

Barton said he expects Nicolas Sebastian (119), Andrew Beliveau (125), Cody King (130), Mark Ebbay (135) and Kyle Kennedy (215) to be competitive, with others, some of whom are healing from injury or yet to become eligible, looking to step up as well.

“We’re counting on some other guys to pick up the pace,” Barton said.

Among those contributors could be Nick Thomas (152) and Tommy Hanberg (160), both of whom pinned their opponents in the Knights’ opening season dual against Port Townsend and Sequim Dec. 4.

The Olympic Dual, which includes area teams 2A Klahowya, 3A Olympic and 4A Central Kitsap, as well as perennial powers Heritage and Yelm, begins at 9:15 a.m. today.

“This is probably the toughest Olympic Duals I’ve ever seen,” Barton said. “It’s going to be a barnburner.”

Bremerton finished fifth at last year’s Olympic Duals, but Barton said the Knights probably won’t finish as high today. Barton hadn’t finalized today’s lineup Wednesday, as a few grapplers were day-to-day with minor injuries.

“We are a kind of depleted in some weight classes,” he said.

Candy Richardson, mother of Billy and Lauren, attended Wednesday’s practice and said Billy would be in town this weekend to help the team and watch the Duals.

Billy is competing around 126 pounds collegiately, up from 112 as a high school senior, Candy said.

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