Thriving wrestling tradition

WHS girls and boys teams are gaining confidence each day

Erin Locke hugs teammate Christina Murray after a tussle in the jungle Thursday, at Washougal High School.

Erin Locke and Sara Sanchez picked up right where they left off last season.

The two Washougal High School seniors earned championship medals to help the Panther girls wrestling team win the 22-school Warden, Wash., Invitational Saturday.

Sanchez pinned all four of her opponents in the 137-pound bracket. Locke nailed three pin fall victories and a 15-0 technical fall at 145 pounds.

Morgan Ratliff (130) snagged second place for the Panthers. Yaneli Martinez (100) and Emily Alder-Storm (112) took third place. Jessica Biron (155) and Katelyn Purkeypyle (235) finished in fourth place. Logan Sanchez (118) and Abby Lees (170) claimed fifth place. Baylee Wright (124) grabbed sixth place.

Locke and Sanchez realize how important they are to each other and the other wrestlers in the program.

“They bought into the idea of family,” said head girls coach Heather Carver. “You make each other better by battling.”

Sanchez finished in fifth place at the 2013 Mat Classic and Locke settled for sixth place. Both Panthers are determined to finish higher up on the podium in 2014.

“I want Sara to realize how far she can go and I want her to finish strong,” Locke said. “I am thankful to have her as a partner. We beat each other up every single day and we make ourselves better. After all you go through, you could either be best friends or worst enemies. It’s just easier to be best friends.”

The Washougal boys wrestling team finished in fifth place at the Wildcat Invitational Saturday, in La Center.

Tanner Baldwin (152) and Bailey Burke (182) snatched second place in their brackets. Ulrich Reyes (106) and Dylan Cherry (120) took third place. Jesse Reagan (138) and Garett Duey (145) earned fourth place.

Baldwin and Reagan tangled throughout the spring, summer and fall to prepare for this winter. Reagan helped train Baldwin for the Down Under Sports wrestling tournament in Australia and New Zealand.

“We push each other in practice every day to get better,” Baldwin said. “I’ve seen the top of the level, and that’s where I want to get. I can’t slack off.”

Reagan and Baldwin strive to be a resource for the younger wrestlers. The more they can get these Panthers to believe and to fight, the deeper the team can go into the postseason.

“I just have a love for this sport. Every time I step on the mat, I want to do my best,” Reagan said. “We are fighting to keep the tradition alive here. This is an amazing sport, and something people shouldn’t be afraid to try.”

Washougal will be tested by all of the teams in the 2A Greater St. Helens League. Head coach Jon Carver said the one with the most consistent lineup should have the advantage, but it all comes down to which team wants it more on the mat.

“When you’re a coach, you want your athletes to be focused, competitive and want to win every day,” Carver said. “Hard work, determination and commitment. To me, that’s how I sum up Washougal wrestling. When we face adversity, which we will, we have to keep fighting and continue to give our best effort.”