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North Kitsap, Kingston test out 'Friday Night Wrestling'
KINGSTON — A near-capacity crowd shook the Kingston High School commons last week with stomps and cheers for high school wrestlers.
The frenzied throng was just what the teams from Kingston and North Kitsap high schools were looking for in what they hope will become a North End tradition.
“I think it’s great,” North Kitsap wrestler Jake Velarde said. “Kingston, North, Friday night ... it’s a good rivalry. It should be fun in the upcoming years.”
January 22 marked the first edition of Friday Night Wrestling, an attempt by Kingston coach Bobby Reece and North Kitsap coach Joe Amick to bring high school wrestling to a broader audience.
“We’ve always gotten a good turnout. We have a good fan base,” Reece said. “I think it’s just an opportunity to promote wrestling.”
High school matches traditionally take place on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, with tournaments on Saturdays. During the winter sports season, wrestling is often overshadowed by the more popular basketball games, which happen on Tuesday and Friday nights.
Unlike most team sports, Amick said wrestling meets can remain exciting even when one team defeats another by a large margin. Oftentimes individual matches within each meet are tightly contested.
“You can get into each and every match,” Amick said.
Last week, the Kingston High basketball teams had Friday off, so the wrestling teams took advantage of the open time slot. Next year, the wrestlers will move the rivalry match to North Kitsap when the Viking basketball squads have a Friday bye.
Last week’s wrestling match had no bearing on league standings, but it remained a heated contest.
“You get rivalries, and that’s how they’re supposed to be,” Amick said.
Kingston led by as much as 24-12 after Devon Jacobs defeated North Kitsap’s Andrew Posten in the 103-pound match. But the Vikings began to mount a comeback. With victories in the 112, 119 and 125-pound weight classes, North pulled to within three points of the lead. Velarde, who moved up two weight classes to defeat Alex Lambert in the 125-pound match, said the large contingent of Viking fans helped spur him on, but he blocks out the noise when he competes.
“It’s always good to have your home fans,” he said. “But I get in that focused mode so I can execute my moves.”
The Vikings finally took a 25-24 lead when Donny Stamaris defeated Kingston’s Michael Johnson in the 130-pound match. The Buccaneers regained the lead in the next match, after Daniel Talmadge beat North Kitsap’s AJ Milyard. North once again jumped ahead, 31-27, when Michael Coulter pinned Kingston’s Brandon McGhan.
After Kingston’s Sam English shut out John Murphy, the Bucs led, 32-31. Trevor King then came on to wrestle North’s Joe LaCourte in the final match. With 33.6 seconds left in the first round, the crowd rose to its feet as King pinned LaCourte to secure a 38-31 victory for the Buccaneers.
Amick and Reece counted the evening as a success for both schools.
“What better match?” Reece said of the rivalry. “There’s not a fan that left today disappointed.”