Grapplers hit the mat at Lakewood Jamboree

LAKEWOOD — Lakewood wrestling coach Tom O’Hara and Arlington coach Rick Iverson have their sport pinned.

The Lakewood Jamboree on Nov. 30 included guests Arlington, Granite Falls, Darrington, Concrete and Burlington-Edison high schools. Two mats divided Lakewood’s main gym for a more intense atmosphere and faster competition as parents, coaches and cheerleaders hooted, hollered and urged their wrestlers to success.

Arlington wrestlers conducted challenge matches, in which a wrestler can take another’s place on the varsity unit by defeating him in practice, on Nov. 29. Iverson said the matches are efficient and allow the athletes to take care of team positioning on their own.

Lakewood founded its open-invite jamboree last year when O’Hara had trouble finding a preseason jamboree that had not been cancelled because of lack of participation or funds.

“It was a really nice opener for us,” Iverson said. “We’re young, so going into an informal atmosphere was good. There was tremendous parent support.”

Iverson was hired before the young season to bring Arlington’s wrestling program to prominence in a time when, he said, the sport is undervalued and often cut because it’s considered a boys-only sport.

“Lakewood did a good job of putting it on,” Iverson said. “We could have gone down to Tacoma or up to Bellingham, but having it in Lakewood gave people the chance to see people they knew.”

O’Hara said Lakewood’s wrestling program will be just fine, since meets attract just as many, if not more, people as a football or basketball game. A dozen kids tried out for wrestling this year with no experience, but they’ve adopted the sport, and more new wrestlers spread attention on campus and in the community.

There is no pressure and no keeping score at this jamboree. What’s important in the event is that wrestlers from the schools in attendance match up with others according to skill level.

According to O’Hara, the jamboree is about having a good time and getting a good start to the season

“Some kids asked me, ‘Who won the tournament?’” O’Hara said. “I say, ‘Who knows? Who cares? Get out there and wrestle.’”

The fast-paced, jumbled wrestling meet has short, three-minute matches — instead of five minutes, like in the regular season — to make sure the wrestlers leave feeling good.

“Is this about winning and losing?” Iverson asked his team in a meeting during the jamboree.

“No,” answered the team.

“It’s about respect. We’re competing against state-ranked wrestlers,” said Iverson with a nod.

Many wrestlers wanted to wrestle more than the two matches they were allowed, and many who were unsure of their interest at the start had become interested by the end.

“Wrestling builds friendship,” O’Hara said. “Boys and girls coexist on the team and support each other. Girls will save this sport. They work just as hard if not harder than the boys.”

It will take a couple of weeks to finalize wrestling rosters because programs are still in evaluative stages.

“It’s about the joy of competition and wrestling,” O’Hara said. “It’s a huge benefit. Some kids are excited and others are scared to death. They don’t have to compete until they’re ready, but I’ve never had kids who didn’t compete all season.”


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