More than 200 high school wrestlers descended on North Whidbey this week when Oak Harbor hosted the Center Circle Wrestling Camp.
Twenty Wildcats, head coach Larry Falcon and assistant Joe Brannon were among those attending.
Center Circle, based out of Bellingham, moved to Oak Harbor this year after two years at Meridian High School in Laurel, north of Bellingham, because it out-grew the Meridian facilities.
It’s a possibility that Oak Harbor could become the permanent home for Center Circle, according to Falcon.
Counselor Jon Trenge has worked at camps throughout the country and said Center Circle “has the right idea.”
“They are not out to make a profit,” he said. “They want Washington wrestling to get better.”
The Center Circle website says “to prepare wrestlers for competition and life, we must continually challenge them to grow as athletes and people.”
Trenge is a three-time college All-American and is one of a group of highly decorated wrestlers who provide instruction for Center Circle.
Among the counselors is Isaiah Martinez, a two-time NCAA champion, and Seth Gross, a 2018 NCAA titlist.
The camp, which runs July 22-27, is a “live-in” camp. Athletes set up quarters in various classrooms around Oak Harbor High School. They eat and sleep at the school, as well as wrestle in the gym and field house, which are outfitted with 10 competition mats.
The daily schedule, which begins with a 6:45 a.m. workout, includes four sessions and a motivational talk, and ends with lights out at 11:15 p.m.
Falcon likes the camp because it is “the full-meal deal.”
His wrestlers learn great technique, face high level competition, learn life lessons and develop team cohesiveness, all in a good setting.
Falcon noted that much of the technique taught is similar to what his staff teaches, which “validates what we are doing.”
Trenge said this week’s camp “is great.”
“The kids are working hard, they are getting good technique and building as teams,” he added. “There is a good interaction between the counselors and the kids.”
Trenge likes the balance Center Circle offers between wrestling and developing the whole person.
“When I was giving the motivational speech last night, several kids were taking notes,” he said. “I am willing to bet some of the kids here will be back as counselors in five years – that is how much they enjoy it.”
Oak Harbor senior Caleb Fitzgerald said the camp pushes the wrestlers physically while providing good technicians.
“It is great to learn from the coaches, to gather some of their knowledge,” he said. “All the work we put in now will be good to take into the season. It shows us how hard we can work and what we are capable of.”
The work required at camp is “pretty tough,” according to Oak Harbor senior Ethan Pace.
“I definitely would not come here if you are faint-hearted.”
Pace sees the camp as a way of helping him reach his goal of placing in next winter’s state tournament.
Oak Harbor junior Shamus Warden said the camp is hard work, but it “feels good, it’s fun.”
He said he came to camp to get better as an individual, get some mat time and help his team.
Oak Harbor freshman Cole Valdez said the camp is “different, unlike anything I have ever done before.”
“It’s harder and more intense,” he said. “If you are serious about wrestling, want to get better and are not a quitter, I think you should come to this camp. It’s a whole other level.”