A core of 10 lettermen will lead the Oak Harbor High School boys wrestling team into the 2019-20 season.
The returning Wildcats are seniors Evan Beerhower, Jamal Graham, Noah Hangan, Jackson Pittman, Salvador Tirado and Shamus Warden; junior Zach Badaouie; and sophomores Zach English, Tim Powers and Cole Valdez.
Graham finished fifth and Warden sixth in last year’s sub-regional tournament.
Warden was also a team captain, and Powers was named the team’s most improved wrestler last winter.
Key newcomers to this year’s varsity team, according to coach Larry Falcon, are senior Derek Jacques and freshmen Miles Erikson, Jeffrey Hogarth and Trey Luis.
“The team is hard working and is hungry for competition,” Falcon said. “We are growing with each practice and going to be filling all weight classes. We will have seconds and possibly thirds in each weight class competing for that varsity spot. This will continue to make those varsity places work harder to maintain their spot and improve as a team.”
Falcon said the team’s strength is its solid foundation of returning wrestlers who are coming off “a great offseason…and went to camps over the summer.”
“There will be some challenges this season, graduating many great wrestlers, but this is a great opportunity to improve and build another great succession of wrestlers,” he added. “We, as a team, will adapt, overcome and learn from our setbacks and gain strength from our successes.”
Growth is the goal of the season, according to Falcon.
“Every match, every tournament and every dual, we want to learn how to become better and become great,” he said.
It will be a successful season if “we continue to develop loyal leaders, which have a competitive edge and strive for excellence,” Falcon said.
“Our wrestlers are dedicated to the program and have the desire to make it great. They have brought our freshmen and newcomers into the fold of the wrestling family. This group is creating their own identity and will be creating a name for themselves.”
Oak Harbor will hold its annual fundraising Purple and Gold Dual at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 3; admission is by donation.
The Wildcats (4-5 last season) host Squalicum (7-4) at 7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 5.