Investing in the next generation

Panther wrestlers bring home five medals from Estacada tournament

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The next generation of Washougal Panthers wrestling in the jungle this winter are green, but nothing is stopping them from earning their orange and black singlets.

“We have no returning state medallists and no returning state participants, so we’re younger than we’ve typically been for the last several years,” said head coach John Carver. “I’m really encouraged with the enthusiasm our freshmen are bringing to the mat. We are counting on our returning wrestlers to instill our winning traditions to our freshmen.”

Team captains Matt Wilson, Ben McMullen and Cory Wicklander are molding the minds of these 23 upstarts.

“They’re grabbing on to whatever they can find and just going for it,” Wilson said. “As freshmen, they’re going to go up against juniors and seniors. Whether they win or lose, I want them to remember that they are going to have a lot more matches on varsity and they’re going to continue to get better.”

Washougal brought home five medals from the Ranger Invitational Saturday, in Estacada, Ore. Wilson wrestled for the 170-pound championship, but lost his opponent from Scappoose by the score of 10-9. Wicklander (120 pounds) and Stephen Camden (160) both won their consolation finals matches for third place. McMullen (285) and Hayden Rodgers (195) each finished in fourth place.

Six freshmen competed in their first varsity matches at Estacada. Wicklander said they remind him of what it was like to be a rookie. He wants to show them the right path, and to inspire more Panthers to come out and wrestle.

“Wrestling is what Washougal is known for. We want to make our town and our school look as good as we can,” Wicklander said. “Anyone that’s got a little fight them should come out for wrestling. But it’s not for everyone. You’ve got to have that passion.”

McMullen, Wicklander and Wilson share the same dreams. First, they want to be league champions again.

“We want that league title,” Wilson said. “Even with so many freshmen, we all want this. We just have to work for it.”

“If these freshmen keep working hard, they can win a league title every year they’re here,” McMullen added.

The three captains also want to wrestle in the Tacoma Dome for the first time, and bring home a state medal.

“I couldn’t think of nothing better than wrestling in the dome and getting my hand raised,” McMullen said. “It’s going to take a lot of sweat, hard work and determination. I have to be committed to what I want. We all do.”