Arlington’s Dustin Baxter flexes after winning a match during a meet against Stanwood on Jan. 24 in Arlington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Arlington’s Dustin Baxter flexes after winning a match during a meet against Stanwood on Jan. 24 in Arlington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Extra time with clubs helps Arlington wrestlers Baxter, Haines excel

Before high school, Dustin Baxter and Tre Haines wrestled together on an Arlington-based club team.

Before wrestling together at Arlington High School, Dustin Baxter and Tre Haines participated for the same club team.

Baxter’s dad, Dustin Baxter Sr., leads Punisher Wrestling Company located in Arlington, which he started in 2018.

When Baxter was younger, his dad said he would get by in matches using solely one or two moves, which if continued would prove to be ineffective. Realizing he needed to be multifaceted, Dustin Baxter Sr. said they trained basics, which is what produced his son into what he is today. During the months of COVID-19, they both lifted weights, helping Baxter go from 113 pounds his freshman year a well-built 165 as a senior.

“He has a really good shot, I think just as good as he did last year of winning it,” said Baxter Sr. of his son’s opportunity to win a state title. “Hopefully, if he just keeps working hard like he has been, I think he’s going to do it. And if not, we’re really proud of him of what’s he’s accomplished. He’s represented the club really well. He’s trusted the process. He stayed with us not because I’m his dad, but because he’s embedded himself with the fundamentals that we teach at Punisher.”

Unlike the younger Baxter, who uses brute strength and wears down opponents with holds, Baxter Sr. said Haines, combining his technique and speed, is a more dynamic wrestler. Though Baxter and Haines wrestle different weight classes, Haines being one weight class below, they have occasionally sparred in practice, creating an interesting match between strength and speed.

“He is a very good kid and humble. One of those kids you really hope for the best,” Baxter’s dad said of Haines. “His work ethic alone gets him to where he’s at right now. When you work that hard, you’re going to have success.”

After a few years at Punisher, Haines sought out different coaching and joined Ascend Wrestling Academy. The club has two locations: Woodinville and Yakima. One of Haines’ first coaches was Derek Garcia, who tallies many accolades, including being a four-time Washington high school state champion at Sedro-Woolley, an ESPN RISE cover athlete and a member of the Ohio State University national championship team in 2015.

Garcia said he tries to instill an alpha mentality into his students where they are strong-willed, relentless and going after their opponent regardless of the score. He said it’s not having an arrogant mindset but rather confidence in one’s self and abilities.

“From the moment he walked in, he looked like an athlete,” Garcia said of Haines. “Secondly, you get him in the stance, he’s so natural with it. At a younger age, you could see the natural ability and drive. You could see in his eyes he wants to be there to learn and get better.”

Haines also plays football at Arlington High School and would make the trip to Ascend after football practice to put in time on the mat. Garcia said Haines is one of the hardest workers on the team and is a coach’s dream. And at Ascend, Garcia said he and the coaches train kids to not only be successful in high school and be state champions, but the aspirations go beyond that with hopes for students to become national and world champions.

“I’m very blessed and lucky to be able to coach him,” Garcia said. “He and his family are my family, and we have that bond. I’m excited to see how he does this year.”

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