Wrestlers grapple with expectations

POULSBO — Larry Maguire, the head coach of the North Kitsap High School wrestling team, is a practical man. He knows what his goal is, and he knows he’ll need four wheels, and engine, and a lot of seats to get there. Maguire recently said, “I want to take a busload of kids to state. I don’t know how many that’ll be just yet, but I think we have the ability.”

POULSBO — Larry Maguire, the head coach of the North Kitsap High School wrestling team, is a practical man. He knows what his goal is, and he knows he’ll need four wheels, and engine, and a lot of seats to get there.

Maguire recently said, “I want to take a busload of kids to state. I don’t know how many that’ll be just yet, but I think we have the ability.”

Last year’s contingent to the Mat Classic in Tacoma could have made it there on a unicycle; sophomore Clark Hutchman was the Vikings’ only representative.

Although big things are expected out of Hutchman this year, he is only one of many talented Vikings who will hit the mats this season, beginning this Saturday with a tough tournament against Tahoma and Kentwood.

Hutchman is one of the team’s leaders, as well as one of its top wrestlers.

“He’s good on his feet,” Maguire said. “He’s tenacious. He gives (the opponents) no rest. He just attacks, attacks, attacks.”

Hutchman wants to keep up that aggressiveness this year.

“I want to place top three (in state),” he said. “I’ve been taking home videos, working on the (wrestling) dummy, and staying after practice.”

Hutchman said he looks forward to the wrestling season, including a difficult pair of meets to start with … but his eyes are on one place and one place only.

“I want to use the regular season to make sure I’m in tip-top shape for state,” said Hutchman.

Hutchman will wrestle in the 152-pound weight class. He is joined by a strong cadre of middle-weight wrestlers, including Peter Gilbreath, who wrestles somewhere around Hutchman’s 152; James Smith, an all-league performer on the NKHS football team, who wrestles at 140; Jarod Jennings, another top returning wrestler, who wrestles up the line at 180; the “Baker boys,” Phillip and Michael, who will add to the Vikings’ depth; and Tim Keane, who will be the team’s heavyweight this year.

Several newcomers, including sophomores Nic Stearns and Doug Piehl, will also contribute.

Piehl, at 119, is an example of something the Vikings didn’t have last year: wrestlers to fill some of the lighter-weight classes. Last year, several forfeits shackled the Vikings. That shouldn’t be as big a problem this year, coaches say.

Players agree.

“It’s looking good,” said Jarod Jennings. “We’ve got a lot of weight classes filled that we didn’t have last year.”

Jennings said he has concentrated on improving his neutral-position play (both wrestlers standing), and thinks he is getting better — a process he doesn’t think will end.

“I’m still learning,” he said. “I always will be.”

Tim Keane, who will man the heavyweight spot for the Vikings this year, says the team looks like it could be successful.

“We look pretty strong,” said Keane.

The Vikings will get a test of that strength early, as they face third-place state finisher Kentwood, at Tahoma, this Saturday. They follow that with a meet at Capital on Dec. 4. Capital, the state champion, should give the Vikings another test before they play their first home meet against Wilson at 7 p.m. Dec. 6.

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