Kingston wrestlers show no fear on the mat

Kingston High wrestlers Travis Schriner, left, and Alex Lambert hope to return to the state meet this year. - Brian J. Olson/Staff photo
Kingston High wrestlers Travis Schriner, left, and Alex Lambert hope to return to the state meet this year.
— image credit: Brian J. Olson/Staff photo

KINGSTON — No matter how long their matches last, wrestlers at Kingston High can never get enough time on the mat.

The team adopted a philosophy this year that encourages wrestlers to look forward to, rather than dread, matches that run overtime. The attitude gives them confidence and a positive mindset, which their coaches hope will lead to more victories.

“One of the big things coaches are working on is building confidence,” said Kingston wrestling coach Chris Gilbreath. “As long as (the wrestlers) feel like they’re progressing, they feel like anything is possible.”

That mentality translated into success for the Buccaneer team last weekend, as it turned in its best performance ever at the Rainshadow Invitational in Sequim. The Bucs finished third in a group of 13 schools, behind champion Cedarcrest and Olympic League leader North Mason.

Despite the loss of 2009 state champion Kiana Witt, a junior who suffered a shoulder injury in the offseason, Kingston hopes to send several wrestlers to the playoffs next month.

“What we’re really looking for is getting set for the district tournament,” Gilbreath said.

The district playoffs begin Feb. 6 in Sequim. Eleven of this season’s returning wrestlers made it through the district playoffs and into the regional tournament last year.

Two of them — seniors Travis Schriner and Alex Lambert — are looking for redemption at the state tournament.

“It’s going to take a lot of hard work, weightlifting, staying after practice to run,” Lambert said. “Everybody at state is tough.”

Lambert (18-4 overall) was eliminated from the state meet last year after losing his first two matches. Schriner (15-2 overall) was ousted after winning just one of his first three matches. Both wrestlers have performed well this season and are on track to return to the playoffs.

“I don’t want to jinx anything, but I’m hoping my chances are pretty good,” Schriner said.

Gilbreath believes the two wrestlers’ talent and hard work will carry them far.

“I think both of them just have a very businesslike attitude toward practice and what they’re doing every day. If there is something that isn’t working right, they’re serious about fixing that,” Gilbreath said. “They both have goals to be state champions. I think they both have seen themselves on the platform at the state tournament.”

At last week’s Rainshadow Invite Lambert was one of two North End wrestlers, along with North Kitsap freshman phenom Jake Velarde, to take first in his weight class. Schriner, teammate Freddy Rodolf and North’s Donny Stamaris each took second in their divisions.

Each wrestler knows training is vital to make it back to state. But strategy also plays a key role. Schriner adapts his own technique to fit each opponent.

“It really depends on who you’re wrestling and what their style is,” he said.

Schriner doesn’t like to know too much about who he is wrestling beforehand. Excess knowledge can lead to over- or underestimating his foes, he said. Instead, he trusts his coaches’ brief assessment of each competitor’s style.

“My philosophy is, the more you know about a guy the worse off you are,” he said.

Neither Schriner nor Lambert limits their knowledge in other areas. Schriner is the Buccaneers’ leading running back in football and top hurdler on the track. He and Lambert say a rigorous schedule helps them manage their study time wisely, and both maintain high grades.

“They both get the job done off the mat,” Gilbreath said. “You don’t have to worry about academic eligibility or them getting in trouble.”

Schriner, who is taking three advanced placement classes, is driven by the sense of accomplishment wrestling gives him.

“My favorite part about wrestling is looking back at the season and saying, ‘I did that,’” he said. “It’s literal blood, sweat and tears every day.”

Indeed, after one hour of practice Monday, three wrestlers soaked with perspiration stood in the hallway at Kingston High. One winced and caught his breath while another held gauze to his nose and a third clutched an ice pack to his shoulder.

But both Schriner and Lambert expect the pain to be worth it, and say their sport’s difficulties are more motivating than discouraging.

“I just like how hard it is,” Lambert said. “It gets you into a good mode so everything you try, you want to go hard at it. It gives you a good work ethic. I just love the sport.”

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