POULSBO — Facing a squad that hasn’t lost in 112 straight dual meets, the North Kitsap wrestling team knew it was fighting an uphill battle against the Wolves of South Kitsap last Tuesday.
But customary of this year’s North Kitsap team — one very different thanks to new strategies by first-year Vikings coaches Jon Cooke and Mike Derda — the squad proved it had a few tricks up its sleeve.
Despite a 59-12 South victory, NK went the distance in three matches, reminding a confident Wolves team — one that also just won CK’s annual Matman tournament — that North is a developing force in the Narrows League. And one that’s confident in sending a few home-grown wrestlers to Tacoma for state.
“We have guys that are mentally ready to go to state,” said NK assistant coach Derda. “When that tournament comes around, anyone has a chance to be the state champion.”
“Now we’re getting into the fun part of the season,” said Vikes coach Cooke. “They will need to beat guys that they’ve never beaten before to get (to state), and they will.”
The match against South was an opportunity to survey some of the more fierce competition: two of South’s grapplers, who went against North, are ranked in the top six in the state, according to Washington Preps.
For South, the match was an opportunity to fine tune techniques as the post season comes closer.
“We’re just trying to finish the season out and get ready for our tournament (at South Kitsap) next week,” said Wolves coach Ron Hudiberg. “We’re going to send as many (to state) as we can get there and we’ll get our share I’m sure.”
The meet started off at the 152 weight class — giving Viking Doug Piehl a chance to face off against South’s Pat Kelly, who is ranked by Washington Preps as sixth in state.
Piehl couldn’t quite make a roll against Kelly, who gave the North grappler little room to maneuver and kept him on the mat. Nonetheless, Piehl went six minutes with one of the state’s best, losing by major decision.
The Wolves got on a roll, with Orry Perez and Jeff Cink winning the next two matches by pinfall over North’s Curtis Travelstead and Brandon Borchers, respectively.
North’s Mike Storey, whose improvement over the season includes using the highly difficult “Peterson” move — starting face-down on the mat and throwing his opponent straight back for a complete, 180 degree reversal — couldn’t quite find room to use the maneuver against Steve Razey of South. Storey did go all six minutes, with Razey unable to find the pin.
One of the more entertaining matches of the night pitted the 275 pounders SK’s Kyle Sattsgaver and NK’s Danny Glushko against one another. Glushko got an early jump by rolling Sattsgaver several times, rocking the gym as 550 pounds flew about the mats. Reminiscent of the result of hooking an angry (and indeed enormous) fish, Glushko couldn’t hang on as Sattsgaver’s flailing arms finally found the NK grappler and the Wolves’ wrestler jumped him to make the pin.
The most competitive match of the night — Viking Matt Grimes against Wolf Josiah Kipperberg — was also its most important for North. Down 38-0, including two forfeits for NK with one still to come, the Purple and Gold was desperate for a win.
“That zero on our side stayed there longer than I thought it would,” Cooke said.
But Grimes and Kipperberg went at it on all sides, running about the mat, twice nearly taking out North’s cheerleaders in the process.
The match also included North’s two coaches frantically running onto the mats, as Grimes was stuck in a potentially dangerous move which the ref hadn’t seen.
“I almost got myself thrown out for hitting the ref,” Derda said. “But we had to get the ref to clue in that (SK’s Kipperberg) was about to break Grimes’ arm.”
Grimes would recover and with few points scored, the pair went 3-3 into the third and final round. With five seconds left, Grimes turned a reversal and took the major decision.
North’s Kyle Cetnarowski was able to pin Garret Lyman in the next match, following Grimes’ momentum. The Viking laid out Lyman with only 14 seconds left in the match.
After Brandon Kelly of South pinned Corey Maxwell, North’s Jerrell Smith added 3 more points for the Vikings, with a 12-6 major decision.
The final two matches of the night saw North’s Danny Harris get pinned by Kyle Coopinger and Viking Miles Pendergraft lose by major decision to Craig Senter.
Pendergraft was able to hold off a pin from Senter, who is ranked fifth in the state by Washington Preps.
Next up for North and South is SK’s tournament starting at 10 a.m. today. The teams then prepare for regional and state competitions. Cooke said he believes the team will send wrestlers to state who have improved the most over the season.
“A lot of them didn’t have a lot of confidence,” Cooke said. “And that little light bulb has blinked on for them. I am very pleased with how they’ve come around.”