Veterans saluted by young wrestlers

Whidbey Wildcats Bryson Lamb, left, and Daniel Barahas wrestled one another in a pee wee match.  - Tim Adams/Whidbey News-Times
Whidbey Wildcats Bryson Lamb, left, and Daniel Barahas wrestled one another in a pee wee match.
— image credit: Tim Adams/Whidbey News-Times

Saturday’s first Region 1 youth wrestling tournament of the 2008-09 season hosted by the Whidbey Wildcat Wrestling Club was a huge success.

Dubbed the Salute to the Veteran Tournament, the event drew 196 competitors from around the Pacific Northwest and packed the Oak Harbor High School gymnasium with young wrestlers of all weights and abilities along with a crowd of parents and fans.

Opening ceremonies featured comments and a welcome by Rear Admiral Robert Passmore (Ret.), OHHS class of 1968 and a former high school wrestler, and with the help of personnel from NAS Whidbey Island along with NJROTC cadets, the event got off to a flying start.

Matches began just after 10 a.m. and with 10 mats of almost non-stop action going on at the same time, the tournament could have been chaotic if not for the efforts of tournament director and Whidbey Wildcat President Richard Fakkema and Secretary Leslianne Smith.

How Smith manages to maintain a calm demeanor and keep wrestling operations on an even keel is somewhat of a miracle.

“I have to juggle eight kids and the wrestling program,” she said with a smile.

Fortunately, several of the Smith kids are wrestlers so “Wrestling Mom’s” multitasking efforts are somewhat diminished during tournaments - however slightly.

Wrestling in classes ranging from pee wee to seniors in various weight divisions, this tournament gave fans the opportunity to view some of the budding stars that will be competing at the high school level in not too many years.

There were a few tears shed by some of the young grapplers who experienced the agony of defeat for the first time this season, but there were also a lot of smiles on many faces as their arms were raised in victory.

The Salute to the Veteran Tournament in Oak Harbor was just the first of many youth wrestling events this season and the next stop for the Whidbey Wildcat grapplers is at the Lynnwood Wrestling Club’s Folkstyle Classic scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 15, at Lynnwood High School.

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