Standing in muggy, mid-morning sunshine, assistant coach Ryan Hitzemann loomed near his wrestlers, barking out commands. During these voluntary summer workouts, held at Woodinville High School, anywhere from 10-15 kids show up three times a week in preparation for the season to come.
"We’ve had more of our younger junior high wrestlers up here participating in our off-season program than we’ve ever had before," Hitzemann said. "And we’ve had more of our wrestlers go to camps and participate in clubs than ever before. So we’re really going in the direction of being a top ten team in the state. That’s our goal."
We were soon joined by head coach Todd Christensen.
"We’re pretty excited," Christensen said. "We’ve got a pretty good senior class this year. Quite a few kids on our team have started since they were sophomores. Five kids have wrestled at state in the past, so we’re thinking it will be a good year for us this year."
Christensen was asked to talk about his promising five wrestlers.
"Dalton Mann is one of our team leaders for sure," he said. "He really improved a huge amount last year. In the course of the season, his turning point was at a big tournament called Pac-Coast, down in Vancouver. He placed in that tournament which was a tough tourney to place at. After that it set him on a rampage. He won quite a few matches and went all the way to state. Came within 15 seconds of placing.
"Zack Gracia is another senior," he said. "He got pneumonia right before district last year. Managed to come back for a day. Was on Cama Flu. Got second in district and then went to regionals but it was too much for him and he didn’t make state.
"But those two guys, they’ve wrestled in both freestyle and Greco-Roman all summer. And there’s my son Ryan, who is a two-time state finalist and a champion last year. We’ve got Cole Morrison, who will be a junior this year, and he went to state last year. We’re hoping to see him actually get into the placing rounds this year.
"And finally there’s Everett Bingisser," Christensen said. "He’s a senior. He went to state as a sophomore but had quite a few injury problems last year. He made it to regionals but he didn’t make it to state.
"He’s a kid that could easily place at state as well. He’s got his health issues straightened out and he’s been lifting weights with us this summer."
Christensen also mentioned one wild card of sorts.
"Edward Kim is another," he said. "He went to regionals as a sophomore and had a strong year. He came in having only wrestled about five times in his life. He’s really taken to it. It’s just been great to see him improve like he has."
Christensen paused and looked out at his wrestlers as they did their drills in the warm sun.
"The fact they’ve been out here this summer three days a week lifting and running and working out tells you about who they are," he said. "It tells you about what they’re trying to accomplish. So we’re pretty excited."