Champions seeking the 'Shadow'

Neither snow nor rain nor several-hour-long bus rides can keep them away. That's exactly what Sequim wrestlers hope for.

Next weekend marks the 12th Rainshadow Wrestling Tournament, pitting some of the top Washington teams in several classifications against each other in one of the largest prep wrestling tourneys in the state.

A total of 18 teams with a combined roster of more than 200 wrestlers are slated to take to mats at the Rick Kaps Gymnasium Friday and Saturday; more than 20 of those participants are returning state qualifiers.

Three of those are from Sequim's own Wolves varsity squad, a team looking to be at full strength after a number of injuries and off-the-mat issues have kept Sequim's roster small.

Sequim coach Len Borchers has high hopes for the Wolves, particularly those heading into their final Rainshadow tourney.

"We've got six, seven seniors - it's their last home tournament (and) they're all looking good," Borchers said. "They want to do their best in front of their home crowd."

Helping lead the charge is senior Joe Hutchison, a 135-pounder who took sixth at state last year and fourth at the Rainshadow tourney. He's ranked third in the state 2A classification by and figures to be a contender for this year's Rainshadow crown, along with Jake Cowin of Eastside Catholic.

At 189 pounds, Sequim's Ethan Hinton looks to be a good bet to defend his 2007 Rainshadow Tournament title. The senior took eighth at last year's state finals. He may tested by Bremerton's Andres Garcia, Bainbridge's Mason Remy or Chase Hanlon of Mount Rainier.

Anthony Gowdy, another Sequim senior, looks to have a strong showing before the hometown crowd at 125 pounds. The two-time state competitor was 2-2 at last year's Rainshadow and figures to be in the mix for a medal along with Andrew Beliveau of Bremerton and Ian Smith of Eastside Catholic.

Alex O'Donnell, a 160-pounder seeking his first trip to state, was fourth at last year's Rainshadow Tourney 152-pound weight class. At the heavier weight class, O'Donnell will have his work cut out for him, battling the likes of Peninsula's Daniel McPherson and Mount Rainier's Josh Fleming.

Borchers expects to see

Sequim High senior Anthony Drabek make his second appearance of the season. After reaching the state meet in 2006 as a 112-pounder and again in 2007 as a 130-pounder, Drabek has struggled with injuries at 140 pounds.

"It'll be good to see him on the mat," Borchers said of Drabek.

Adam Raemer of Port Angeles looks like this class' top threat along with Ryan Makela of Mount Si, Justin Bishop of Mount Rainier, Eli Narte of Bainbridge and Delano Jordan of West Seattle.

Sequim junior Thomas Gallagher looks to improve upon his third-place finish at last year's Rainshadow tourney heavyweight division. He has a chance to avenge his only loss with a pairing against Ryan Ransavage of Mount Si this season. But the top wrestler in this 285-pound weight class is Port Angeles behemoth John Camp, ranked No. 1 by in the 3A classification.

Don't count out the Sequim wrestler, Borchers warned.

"Thomas has come a long way this year," he said.

The tourney features a dozen 3A teams, three 3A teams, two 2A teams (Sequim, Cedarcrest) and one 1A team in Port Townsend.

Though the tourney lost a couple of Rainshadow regulars like Columbia River and Klahowya thanks to a scheduling conflict - the Pacific Coast Tournament in Vancouver, Wash., is on the same weekend - Borchers and tourney organizer Steve Chinn said the six new teams (Bethel, Eastside Catholic, Kentridge, Nathan Hale, North Kitsap and Peninsula) should strengthen the tourney's reputation.

"The level has gone up," Chinn said. "With the quality of teams we're bringing in, the quality (of the tourney) is going to improve."

With so many teams headed to town, Chinn said the challenge this year - and most years - is coordinating everything. He estimated that the Rainshadow uses about 50 volunteers.

"It takes an amazing amount of support and parent help," said Chinn, a former Sequim High varsity coach.

Several teams, such as Bremerton and Port Townsend, are commuting while others find rooms at local hotels. Several teams are holing up in Sequim High's gymnasium, Chinn said.

"It's traditional - it ends up being kind of a bonding time," he said.

With the weather warming and ice and snow melting across Puget Sound, the Rainshadow tourney won't likely meet the fate of others like the Cardinal Classic in Tacoma, which was canceled Dec. 20 thanks to regionwide snowfall.

In January 2005, a major snowfall negated a number of sporting events, but not the Rainshadow. With snow piling up outside and four teams stuck on U.S. Highway 101 near Blyn, tournament directors postponed start for three hours; wrestlers carried on, grappling until midnight and again at 8 a.m. the next day.

"It was one of those crazy tournaments," Chinn said. "Wrestling is so unique (because) these teams are traveling every weekend. It really is a sport that's unnerving. That's one of the things I disliked the most while I was coaching ... was getting wrestlers to and from tournaments."

"Hopefully the weather will clear and everyone will make it," Borchers said.

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