The Shorewood wrestling team returns state-participant Tim Hester and a handful of other experienced wrestlers, but after that group the Thunderbirds are fairly raw.
“We’re rebuilding,” Shorewood head coach Arnie Moreno said. “There’s a big youth movement in our team.”
Hester, who last season became the first Shorewood wrestler since Erik Wahl in 1988 to qualify for state, moves up a weight class from 171 pounds to 189 pounds this year.
Hester has started the season 5-0 and took the 189-pound title at the Lake Washington Invitational Dec. 9, pinning his first three opponents in less than a minute. The junior co-captain, who went 0-2 at state last year, is ranked in the top 30 in his weight class nationally among USA Wrestling junior wrestlers, Moreno said. He placed seventh at 171 pounds among 15-and-16-year-olds in Greco-Roman wrestling at USA Wrestling’s Junior and Cadet Nationals in Fargo, N.D., in July.
Moreno said Hester could place in the top four in the Class 4A 189-pound weight class. The last Shorewood wrestler to place at state was Jeff Hansen, who earned a second-place medal in 1987.
“He has a bright future if he stays healthy and accomplishes some of those goals he’s setting for himself,” Moreno said.
Shorewood’s next best hope for state is junior co-captain Matt Jensen, who wrestles at 145 pounds. Jensen qualified for regionals last year but went 0-2.
“My personal goal is to place at state or make it,” he said.
Jensen conceded its tough to find a sparring partner at his weight to challenge him because the T-birds are so inexperienced. Mitch Zemanek, who graduated last year and qualified for regionals, has volunteered to work with Jensen.
Other regional participants returning for the T-birds are senior co-captain Michael Yun (112 pounds) and sophomore Carl Berenson (119 pounds). Junior co-captain Nick Karambalas (160 pounds) and senior Paul Ferguson (152 pounds) also have a shot at making at least a run at regionals.
The Thunderbirds have a good group of freshmen, including Taylor Ramsden (112 pounds), Sam Hobbs (119 pounds), Chris Nitta (130 pounds), Taylor Ames (152 pounds) and Elliot Head (285 pounds), who provide a solid base for the future.
Two seniors who are out for the first time, Said Hammod (145 pounds) and James Franklin (160 pounds), are tremendous athletes but inexperienced wrestlers, Moreno said.
Mistakes are to be expected from a young team, but the Thunderbirds can improve their aggressiveness and discipline, Jensen said.
“They learned that right away” in losses to Marysville-Pilchuck and Mariner to start the season, Moreno said.
“This is kind of a long-term project,” said Moreno, who is in his 10th year at Shorewood. “We’re getting ready for next year.”
“It’s baby steps,” he said. “Every match they get they’re going to learn from it. I’m looking forward to this season. It’s been awhile since I’ve had this young of a team. I’m excited about the potential of talent I see.”