Washougal aiming for excellence

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Reminders of Washougal's long wrestling heritage surround the team every day during practice in the "Panther Den."

The wrestling room at Washougal High School has a lot of hardware hanging on the wall, from a long list of state champions. It’s something athletes take great pride in and this year’s team plans to bring more postseason hardware back to the Washougal Panther practice den.

John Carver has been Washougal’s head wrestling coach for 31 years, and also wrestled for the Panthers in high school, where he earned a scholarship as an athlete at North Idaho College before returning to his alma mater. Carter bleeds orange and black, and that pride is contagious to those around him.

“The record we are most proud of is that for the past 25 years we have had at least one wrestler at the state tournament representing Washougal,” Carter said.

Top boys chase state title dreams

This year’s boys team is led by co-captains Jason Powell and Jeffrey Wells.

“They have bought into the program and have gone to wrestling camps. Their skills have improved to the point where they have postseason expectations with the ultimate goal of qualifying for state,” Carter said.

Washougal junior Gus Shelley went to regionals last season, and his coaches say he could definitely be a state qualifier this year.

Coaches also expect big things from Washougal senior Dakota Andelman, who has always wrestled in the heavyweight division but managed to drop his weight down to 220 pounds, thanks to intense training during the football season. In past years, in the heavyweight division, Andelman was forced to tangle with 290 pounders. Coaches expect his new weight class will help Andelman dominate his opponents this season.

Washougal junior Scott Lees, who qualified for state during his sophomore year, hopes to follow in his older siblings’ footsteps this season. His older brother, Tanner, won the state championship last year, and their older sister, Abby, won state in 2015 and 2017.

Girls team talented but light on seniors

The Panther girls wrestling team has been to state every year since the program began in 2007, and this year’s team plans to keep that 11-year streak rolling.

Washougal junior Ashley Garrison is an experienced wrestler looking to make a state run this season. Likewise, Washougal junior Emily Aikens comes from a wrestling family that has had several state medalists.

“She is someone who can’t be ignored because she’s got something to prove as the baby of the family,” Washougal’s head girls wrestling coach Heather Carver said.

Aleksi Donahue, Jenna Beaver, Lauren Locke and Josalyn Ortiz are all expected to be strong leaders with postseason potential for the Panthers.

The girls program is flourishing right along with the boys, especially when you consider there were only two girls on the first team in 2007, and this season has 20 girls grinding out difficult practices with dreams of adding more wrestling championship hardware to their school’s wall.