Two weeks in and Sequim’s wrestling coaches and athletes say the environment and work ethic may be the team’s best in recent years.
“It’s a smaller team but there’s no goofing off,” said Sequim coach Bill Schroepfer. “They all seem to want to be here. We’re even finishing practices early because we’re getting through (skills and conditioning) quicker.”
The Wolves’ boys and girls are following a season of big successes with the girls placing 12th overall and the boys 20th at the 2016 State Mat Classic.
Sequim lost several state-competitors and top-tier wrestlers to graduation or other circumstances such as the Baker brothers – Craig and Travis, Adrian Klarich (seventh at 182 pounds), Alma Mendoza (fifth place at 155 pounds), Dylan Perreira, Grant Pierson (fifth place at at 160 pounds), McKenzie Stockdale, and Austin Budd.
However, Sequim sees some key returners including Kiara Pierson, who placed third at state in the 120-pound bracket. Schroepfer says he keeps trying to dial back his enthusiasm for Pierson to not inflate expectations.
“I keep saying she’s going to be our next state champ,” he said. “I told her the first day of practice I’m not really afraid of anyone in your weight class. She proved last year she can go toe-to-toe with any of them.”
Teammate Aylee Bennett, girls’ co-captain with Pierson, says she’s felt Pierson was going to go far at state since they were sophomores.
“I’ve said she’s going to finish first her senior year,” she said.
Now the two may be in the same weight class at 130 or 135 pounds, but Bennett said Pierson will do fine.
“They are just bigger than she’s used to but I think she’ll do fine and dominate it,” she said. “She works hard for it.”
Girls’ eye state spots
Bennett and Pierson lead a team of ten girl wrestlers including returners Megan Puksta, Alexi Rampp-Taft, and Madison Uranga.
Schroepfer said the girls open their season on Dec. 2 at Emerald Ridge High School and will compete at as many tournaments as the boys.
Bennett said the new girls seem dedicated and she’s optimistic at least half the girls’ team will compete at sub-regionals
She’s qualified for regionals two years in a row but says she’s been two matches away each time from a state spot.
“It’s definitely difficult and when you’re on the fifth match, you’re drained,” Bennett said.
Her goal is a state spot, but she’s working through a soccer injury.
“This is the sport I want to finish off (as a senior),” Bennett said.
Sequim’s boys open their season the same weekend as the girls on Dec. 2 at White River.
Leading them are co-captains and seniors Ben Newell and Jamie Schroepfer who echo their coach saying the team seems dedicated to working hard.
“The culture is good and they all want to work hard,” Bill Schroepfer said.
With all the departures though, Sequim may be giving up at least five forfeits per dual meet, he said, due to not having many lightweight or heavyweight boy wrestlers.
Both Newell and Jamie Schroepfer say they’ve been researching their potential competition in the Olympic League.
“We’ve been trying to look back but a lot of the good kids who wrestled me have graduated,” Newell said.
Newell, like Bennett, has been close to a state berth.
“I was one match away from state last year (at 132 pounds as an alternate) but I lost to a kid who graduated,” he said. “It should be looking a lot better this season for me.”
For the boys, the captains say Hayden Gresli, Chris Puksta, and Mason Larsen, who was an alternate to state last year, should do well too.
“As a team, it’s a rebuilding year, but individually, some of us should go far,” Jamie Schroepfer said.
More than half the boys are new to the team, but Bill Schroepfer says many of them have wrestled before.