By AARON MANAGHAN
Is it a beast? Some kind of monster?
No matter what you call it, the competition at the 31st annual Central Kitsap Matman Classic wrestling tournament will be fierce.
“There’s no doubt it will be the toughest. It’s gonna be a beast of a tourney,” CK coach Mike Harter said. “It’s gonna be a monster tournament. And then some.”
This year’s 16-team field includes 31 returning state placers. That includes state champions Zach Zweifel of Lake Stevens (won the 4A 103-pound title last year), Tahoma’s Kevin Tao (4A, 119), Graham-Kapowsin’s Brad Sweet (4A, 145) and Auburn Riverside’s Michael Mangrum (3A, 140) and Eric Jones (3A, 145).
“There’s some state champs, finalists and participants,” Harter said. “It may be the toughest it’s ever been.”
That means some good matches should shape up in every weight bracket.
“It makes for great competition,” Harter said. “I love to see good wrestlers anytime.”
Joining hosts Central Kitsap this year are county comrades South Kitsap, North Kitsap, Olympic and Bremerton. Lake Stevens and Auburn-Riverside will both attend, as will Mt. Spokane, Tahoma, Rogers (of Puyallup), Shelton, Davis (of Yakima), Spanaway, Enumclaw, Graham-Kapowsin and Newport.
Wrestling begins at 10 a.m. Saturday at CKHS, with 8 a.m. weigh-ins. Finals matches are tentatively scheduled for 5:30 p.m., pending no delays.
The top three teams will be awarded with medals for individual first-, second- and third-placers.
As a tournament director, Harter is extremely enthusiastic about this year’s batch of talent. As CK’s coach, he’s even more excited that his team will get to compete against some of the best around.
“Of course,” he said. “Anytime they can see the top competition, I think it’s well worth it. It’s an opportunity for every kid on the team.”
For wrestling fans worried about missing Saturday’s NFL divisional playoff game between the Seattle Seahawks and Green Bay Packers, worry not. In 2005, the tournament fell during the postseason while Seattle hosted Washington. Televisions were set up in a hallway for fans. Harter said plans are in the works to get TVs set up for game viewing this year too.
After all, as Harter said, of any year to miss Matman, this is most certainly not the one.
“Fans aren’t gonna see better wrestling in another tournament on this side (of the water) and this close to home,” Harter said, referencing the site of the state wrestling championships. “This is a good opportunity. To see those athletes and teams at that level of wrestling, usually it’s gonna be at the (Tacoma Dome).”