The Gig Harbor Tides sent two wrestlers to the Class 4A Mat Classic state tournament last year, and they hope they can add a couple more names to the list this season.
Fourth-head coach Leonard Spadoni said the team is still in the building process.
“We’re still young, but we’re getting a lot more experience,” he said. “We’re hoping to grow a little more and have a few more victories.”
Spadoni said the team put in a lot of work with conditioning and training in the offseason.
“We’re trying to get more muscular and in shape to compete prior to the season,” he said. “We had a big push in the offseason to get in shape and develop their muscular structure.”
One key returner will be Mackenzie Schwendeman, who placed seventh in state last season for girls.
Eli Wilson, Max Batanian, Gavin Spadoni and freshman Kyle Whitefield are also back from a season ago.
Schwendeman, who wrestles in the 112-pound division and wants to continue her career in college, is aiming for the title.
“I hope to be a state champ. That’s my main goal,” she said. “I’m looking into wrestling in college, so I want to put my name out there and make sure a lot of the college coaches know who I am.”
The team had some time to bond during the summer, when they watched movies and camped out at the Schwendeman house. They hope the relationships they’ve worked to build will help them motivate each other during the season.
While Whitefield doesn’t have high school wrestling experience, he’s been competing for several years and has a solid understanding of the sport.
Gig Harbor didn’t lose any major contributors to graduation, but Whitefield hopes he can jump right in with the core group and make an immediate impact.
“I think we’re all pretty tough and pretty experienced, so we can just perform out on the mat,” he said.
Batanian, a sophomore who wrestles at 152, said the team has worked hard to improve athletically. A continued emphasis on work outside of everyday practice will be an integral part of the team’s success, he said.
“We just have to work hard, especially away from the mat room,” Batanian said. “On your own, over the weekend, we have to run and just get better on our own and in the mat room.”
Batanian said he’s inspired by sisters Elizabeth and Mackenzie Schwendeman. Elizabeth is sidelined with an injury for the foreseeable future, a blow to the Tides.
“There’s just kind of that vibe from last year — two of our girls went to state,” Batanian said. “That influenced me and pumped me up for this year and what we can do this year.”
While the team is small in numbers, Spadoni is confident in their chances.
“We had a lot of young athletes that worked hard in the offseason and are developing,” he said.
tides’ wrestling schedule
Dec. 7at Timberline8 a.m.
Dec. 12vs. Bellarmine7 p.m.
Dec. 13at Wenatchee4 p.m.
Dec. 14at Bonney Lake7 a.m.
Dec. 17at South Kitsap7 p.m.
Dec. 19vs. Stadium7 p.m.
Dec. 20-21at Hammerhead Tournament8 a.m.
Dec. 28at Lady Lions Tournament 7 a.m.
Dec. 28at North Mason Tournament 8 a.m.
Jan. 4at Bonney Lake7 p.m.
Jan. 9at Yelm7 p.m.
Jan. 18at Auburn Mountainview8 a.m.
Jan. 23vs. Central Kitsap7 p.m.
Jan. 25at Jaguar Tournament8 a.m.
Jan. 30at Olympia7 p.m.Sports reporter Jon Manley can be reached at 253-358-4151 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter, @gateway_jon.