After an unbelievable ride with his best friends on the Camas High School football team, the pads are off and Miguel Salamanca is ready to wrestle.
“I think it’s going to be an exciting season for wrestling, especially if we can build on the success of football,” he said. “Everybody thinks we’re just a young team, and we want to prove everybody wrong.”
As he makes up for lost time on the mat, Salamanca is anxious to be a part of Thursday’s rivalry match at Washougal High School. Coming off a fourth place finish at state last season, the senior looks forward to the challenges that lie ahead.
“There’s a lot of pressure on me to do as good as I did last year, plus I got to be a mentor to these guys,” Salamanca said. “The goal for myself is to get back to state. I really wrestled well toward the end of last season, and I hope that continues. The goal for the team is to wrestle our best at districts and regionals, and to make a run for it at state.”
Ever since Salamanca reached the finals of the district tournament as a sophomore, head coach Glenn Hartman knew he was going to be special.
“He has a lot of skill and ability, and the heart of a champion,” Hartman said. “He’s the one you want out there battling for your team because he finds a way to rise to the top.”
Hartman also likes what he sees in seniors Lucas Nicacio and Gabe Wells, and underclassmen Phillip Barlas, Andrew Duffy, Marcus Hartman, Vicente Huber, Austin Miller, Dakota Safford, Christopher Scott and Tyler Weiss.
Scott and Weiss each finished third in their weight classes at Saturday’s West Valley Yakima tournament, and Nicacio and Wells both earned fourth. Duffy, Marcus Hartman and Tye Lommasson captured championships from Saturday’s junior varsity tournament at Columbia River High School, in Hazel Dell.
“Our team should develop more as the season goes along,” said coach Hartman. “These kids work hard every day, and they want to learn more. They should improve a lot during the year, as long as we continue to give them good instruction and opportunities to succeed.”
Back in the 3A Greater St. Helens League, Kelso is the clear favorite to finish first. Hartman hopes the Papermakers can win the wars with Columbia River, Mountain View and Prairie, and hold off Fort Vancouver and Hudson’s Bay. He is also looking forward facing Washougal Thursday. Matches begin at 6 p.m., at Washougal High School.
“Washougal is always a tough, quality match for us. They have good kids, who are well coached,” Hartman said. “It’s Camas-Washougal. It’s a big deal to them, and it’s a big deal to us.”
Salamanca looks forward to the rivalry matches and the tournaments because of the large crowds and excitement they produce.
“There are times out there when you are so tired, but you don’t want to give up,” he said. “You want to do it for all of your fans and for your teammates. Just persevere and good things will come.”
Salamanca looks back at his final weeks as a high school football player fondly. He hopes it turns him into a better wrestler and a team leader.
“Football taught me to persevere,” Salamanca said. “If I get into a tight match late in the third round or in overtime, I know that if I keep working hard success will come.
“It was a great football season for all of us. I’m always going to have memories from football,” he said. “It’s time to let all of that go for now, and get ready for wrestling.”