Panther prepares for overseas adventure

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Washougal High School sophomore Tanner Baldwin is preparing to wrestle in the Down Under Sports program in July. He will compete in New Zealand and Australia before relaxing in Hawaii.

The world is about to change for Washougal’s Tanner Baldwin.

On July 1, the 16-year-old is on his way to New Zealand for four days and Australia for three days to wrestle in three different tournaments.

After that, he will enjoy three days at Waikiki, in Oahu, Hawaii.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Baldwin said. “I’m excited to meet other wrestlers from all over the country and the world. I just want to take in all the wrestling and the culture.”

The journey starts with a freestyle clinic. Baldwin will compete in an individual and a team tournament before trying his luck in a beach tournament.

“I’ll be wrestling on the sand,” he said. “It should pretty interesting.”

Baldwin received a letter in the mail inviting him to wrestle in the Down Under Sports program about a month ago. He has been working with wrestling coach Rob Anderson and his teammates three times a week.

The Washougal community helped the Baldwin family raise the $4,200 necessary to fund the trip.

Two Poker tournaments generated $1,525, a softball tournament added $620, and a spaghetti feed and silent auction raised $495.

Cari Baldwin thanked all of the people who participated in these events or made a donation to their cause.

The success of these fundraisers helped Tanner Baldwin realize how many people in Washougal care about wrestling.

“It’s a very important tradition,” he said. “I feel like every time I step out on that mat, I have to perform my best.”

Baldwin tried a variety of sports at Canyon Creek Middle School, but he found that wrestling gave him the most reward.

“It’s a team sport, but when you’re out there on that mat, it’s all you and nobody else. You have to rely on your skill and everything you’ve developed,” Baldwin said. “I also like the physicality of it. The combat style.”

Baldwin fulfilled the dream of wrestling in his first high school state tournament as a sophomore. He will never forget the aura that surrounds the Tacoma Dome.

“It’s bigger than anything I imagined,” Baldwin said.

This Washougal Panther never imagined he would get an opportunity to wrestle on the other side of the world. The hair on the back of his neck is standing up. He is ready to pounce.

“A lot of people are going to be like ‘where’s Washougal’ because we’re a small town,” Baldwin said. “I want to get the name out there and put it on the map.

“I’m getting extra mat time in a unique environment,” he added. “When I’m wrestling these guys from other countries, I hope to pick up on their techniques and skills. I couldn’t be more excited.”