Rookies, vets take to the mat

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Jimmy Waters is sweating up a storm.

So is Kyle Keith, his grappling partner.

The pair, soaking wet after several minutes of rolling, grabbing, grasping, twisting and turning like they were trying to make the other into chewable taffy, need a breather.

After eying each other for a moment, they're back at it, pushing and pulling, grunting and gasping.

Both in their mid-20s, the pair couldn't wrestle in high school forever - but they can wrestle as long as they can stand.

The two are among the "elder" statesmen of the

Sequim Wrestling Club, a new freestyle wrestling group that meets twice a week and opens its doors to youngsters and adults alike.

At 29 years "old," Waters is the senior member of the club.

"I'm just trying to get back in shape," he says between breaths, leaning against the padded wall at the Sequim Community School gym.

A solid high school wrestler who made alternate to state as a 190-pounder before he graduated from Sequim High in 1998, Waters says he's been working in the construction field for the past 10 years.

When his wife's younger brother joined the club, it sparked something in Waters. Since February, he's made a point to get practice time in with the pack of mostly teens (and a few grade-school-aged youths) when he can.

"I remembered every move," Waters says, still breathing heavy. "The ability to do them (is tougher)."

Bill Schroepfer, assistant coach at Sequim High School, is one of three coaches - along with Sequim Middle School coaches Rich Hay and Chris Goettling - who help their younger grapplers (both male and female) with learning and perfecting moves, maintaining a good wrestling weight and becoming more mentally tough.

"We help them on the mat and off," Schroepfer says. "Some of them are just seeing if they like it."

And not just in practice. Each wrestler can enter tournaments across the region. So far, Sequim Wrestling Club athletes have seen action in tourneys in Chehalis, Raymond, Sedro-Woolley, Adna-Ferndale and last weekend in Auburn.

Schroepfer says he gets anywhere from six to 10 grapplers at each tourney.

That's particularly fortunate for several of the younger athletes like Alan Ulin, the club's youngest wrestler at 7 years old who matches up in weight with just one other Sequim Wrestling Club devotee - an 11-year-old fourth-grader.

"I like freestyle," Ulin says. "I like having fun and shooting on people."

Jaime Schroepfer, Bill's 11-year-old son, is a bit more blunt.

"I like hurting people," he says.

"But not in practice," Ulin adds, checking the aggressiveness of his grappling partner.

"Not in practice,"

Jaime affirms.

While the youths are circling each other looking to "shoot" - diving at each others' legs to get a takedown - Keith and Waters are buried in a staggering, muscle-clenching hold that has others stopped and looking on.

Keith, the 2002 Washington state champion at 215 pounds, is recovering from a knee injury. Waters is coming back from a 10-year hiatus from the sport. Hard to believe that either is true.

Waters, who says the club has inspired him to get in shape, hopefully to wrestle in a tournament by next prep wrestling season and perhaps get into coaching the sport later on, says the toughest part about coming back to the sport is an issue of trust.

"It's trusting your ability," he says.

It helps Waters, it seems, to have a bit of challenge - say, a former state champion.

"When I saw him in here today," Waters says, glancing over at the equally winded Keith, "I got excited."

Reach Michael Dashiell at

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