White River High wrestlers look forward to kicking off the season Thursday with South Puget Sound League 3A rival Sumner, but it’s Saturday’s White River Classic that will let the Hornets know where they stand or what they have to work on early in the season.
“It’s as tough as I’ve ever seen it,” second-year coach Joe Klein said of the tournament which White River has hosted for coming up on two decades. The buzz this time is the state’s defending Class 3A champion Enumclaw and runner-up Yelm will be among the participants, as will some of the perennially tougher teams in the state like Sunnyside and Auburn Riverside.
White River suffered a blow with graduation, but Klein isn’t worried.
“We are young,” Klein said. “We are relatively inexperienced. We’ll be as good as they (the wreslters) want to be.” And he said he and his coaching staff of Bob and Brandon Walker are there to do whatever they can to make the Hornets as tough as they choose.
Leading the way early will be senior Jeremy Gurule, who placed seventh at 130 pounds at state last season, and junior Alec Williams, who was a state participant. Heavyweight Chase Myers was an alternate to the state tournament.
Others in the preseason who could figure into the Hornets’ winning formula are Michael P. Madden, Michael J. Madden, Dave Meagher, Gino Russell and Joey Anderson.
Klein said he has a handful of seniors in the wrestling room on Day 2, but of the nearly 60 athletes on the mat, a large number are freshmen and sophomores. White River’s winning wrestling tradition – the team was state runner-up three times straight and captured the 1995 title – always brings a crowd.
“I’m excited. We have an energetic bunch of kids,” Klein said. “We’ll be competitive.”
Competition is the name of the game in the always-tough South Puget Sound League 3A.
White River finished 13th at Mat Classic, the state 3A tournament, after one of its top wrestlers fractured his leg and the defending state champion suffered a loss. Fellow SPSL 3A member Enumclaw won the state title and seven of the eight SPSL 3A schools finished in the top 20. The league has been realigned, so Auburn and Auburn Riverside have disappeared, but Lakes, Peninsula and Clover Park come in and the Hornets will also include nonleague matches with Capital, North Thurston, Yelm and Timberline.
In addition to Enumclaw and White River, Sumner, Capital, North Thurston, Auburn Mountainview, Bonney Lake and Lakes all finished among the state’s top 21 teams.
“Enumclaw obviously is the team to beat in the state, no doubt,” Klein said. “But people (in our league) have to bring their A game every day.”
Reach Brenda Sexton at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360-802-8206.