Stephen Camden and Wyatt Eakins are leading the young and courageous Washougal High School wrestlers into the next generation.
“It’s not just going to be about this year for this group, but also the years to come,” Camden said. “We want to leave an impression on these wrestlers and build a platform for future generations to follow.”
Camden snagged a sixth-place medal at the state meet last season. Eakins said nothing is going to stand in the way of him wrestling at the Tacoma Dome in February. Both seniors have sophomore sisters who are making their mark on the program.
“When people see a Washougal wrestler, they see somebody who is hard working, intelligent, intense, strong, loyal, respectful and kind,” Eakins said. “Wrestling is not just a sport, it’s a lifestyle. You never give up in wrestling, just like you never give up in life.”
Washougal finished in fourth place at a Dec. 1 tournament in Estacada, Ore. Camden captured the 170-pound championship medal. Jacob Brown took second place, Zach Oster and Matt Leifson earned third place, and Eakins, Roger Polanco and Tanner Baldwin settled for fourth place.
“For only having three upperclassmen competing, I thought fourth place was pretty impressive,” said head coach John Carver. “Our sophomores and freshmen had a great first tournament.”
Carver believes the future of the Washougal wrestling program is in good hands with Camden, Eakins, Rogelio Sanchez, Hayden Rogers, Nick Kratzke, Garrett Boyd and Josh Economides leading the way. He expects these seniors to mold the underclassmen into winners.
“Our winning tradition isn’t just about getting the ‘W’ over the ‘L,’” Camden said. “Even if you lose a match, if you learned something you can use the next time, it’s a win.”
Washougal faced Camas and La Center in the double dual Friday, at La Center High School. Brown, Oster, Polanco and Baldwin earned some exciting victories, but the Panthers lost to the Papermakers. Washougal bounced back by defeating La Center 52-25 in the nightcap.
Tara Duey, Haven Camden, Erin Locke, Jessica Biron, Jessica Eakins and Emily Alder-Storm lead a deeply talented girls team for the Panthers. These girls helped Washougal capture the Clark County girls championship. Camden finished sixth at state and Locke earned eighth.
“Think not only about your glory, but also acknowledge and encourage others,” Locke said. “Washougal boys and girls are welcome at tournaments because we are classy and respectful. I think that. It’s all about portraying your school and your community in a positve light.”
The Panthers are looking forward to the Best of the West Invitational Dec. 21 and 22 in Pasco, the Washougal River Rumble Jan. 29 and the Clark County tournament Jan. 11 and 12 at Skyview High School.
The Washougal boys are hoping to knock off favorites Mark Morris and R.A. Long. Carver said Hockinson could be a dark horse, and he is uncertain of what Ridgefield will bring back to the league.
The Washougal girls want to repeat as county champions. Both teams would like to qualify more wrestlers to state.
Like many of the seniors and juniors in the program, Locke embraces her opportunity to become a leader.
“When I was a freshmen, I remember a senior named Michael Huck who was very encouraging,” she said. “I would look across the room and say, ‘I want to beat him,’ whether it was wrestling, doing push ups or running laps.
“Now I see that people are coming to me with questions. I realize I got to be that person who leads by example,” Locke added. “I just want to be a positive example, and be there for my teammates when they need me.”