SNOHOMISH — After a successful, yet injury plagued 2017-18 campaign, the Snohomish High School boys wrestling team, led by its deep, experienced cadre at the upper weights, is painting itself as a sleeping giant in a loaded Wesco 3A North.
Toward the end of last season, the Panthers resembled a M.A.S.H. unit with all the injuries they sustained both during the regular season and the postseason.
Some of those afflicted with the injury bug were able to fight through their bumps and bruises and some weren’t, but it’s clear that the roster as a whole did not perform to its potential in the postseason last season because of all the injuries.
“Dylan Wheeler, Kyle Carlson, Duncan King, Matt Currier and I all have expectations of going to state,” said Snohomish senior 195-pounder Ryan Douglas, who was an alternate for Mat Classic XXX last season despite battling severe impingements in both hips for the past 15 months.
At some point during last year’s wrestling season, the following Panthers were hampered by injury to varying degrees: 285-pounder King (knee injury during his regional semifinal), 152-pounder Preston Smith (shoulder/collarbone injury in a dirt bike fall), 170-pounder Ryan Cote (ankle injury during the 2017 football season) and Douglas.
“We had more injuries last year than on any other team I’ve coached,” Snohomish coach Joey Brown said. “We had so many kids get hurt, and several seasons were ended with injuries. But almost all of those kids are back this year, and we’re excited. It’s the first time since I’ve been here that we have a lot of kids who have been wrestling for a long time. Our juniors and seniors have been on varsity since they were freshmen and sophomores. We’re excited to have a full lineup, and we’re ready to go out and take on anyone.”
Brown wants this Panthers team to embrace a mindset of “anytime, anywhere” when it comes to competition, and Snohomish’s schedule reflects that mindset.
The Panthers wrestled at the Rose City Championships in Portland on Dec. 7-8, will attend the Pac Coast Championships at Mountain View High School in Vancouver on Dec. 28-29, and travel to University Place to battle 4A powerhouse Curtis in a Jan. 16 dual meet. The Vikings have finished in the top six in the team standings in each of the past three state tournaments, including a runner-up finish in 2017.
Regardless of its opponents’ pedigrees, Snohomish doesn’t take a back seat to anyone in the upper weights. The bottom of the Panthers’ lineup — Carlson (160), Cote (170), Wheeler (182), Douglas (195), Currier (220) and King (285) — is as daunting as any in the area.
In a Dec. 5 dual at Edmonds-Woodway — arguably the top team in Snohomish County in any classification — Snohomish scored 24 of a possible 36 points in the six bouts from 160 through 285, with Carlson subbing for Cote at 170 and Smith bumping up to 160.
“We expect to win every match at 152 and up,” Douglas said. “That’s where our older guys are, and we have to nurture the younger guys to believe in themselves more.”
Two of the upper-weight group — Carlson and Wheeler — were the Panthers’ representatives at Mat Classic last season, and the expectation is not simply that more get to the Tacoma Dome this year, but that the larger group sticks around until Saturday.
“We’re thinking about all those guys as second-day tournament guys,” Brown said.
Snohomish’s lower-weight wrestlers have ability, they just need mat time and more experience.
“A lot of our younger kids are 50-50 guys,” Brown said. “They give us everything they have, but it might only add up to a win 50 percent of the time.”
With the talent the Panthers have in the upper weights — as long as they stay healthy — that might be all Snohomish needs to challenge for the Wesco 3A North title.