Lakewood family pins hopes on wrestling (slide show)

MARYSVILLE – All brothers like to wrestle, but the Baxter brothers take it to another level.

And their sister might not be far behind.

Duxtin and Karrie Baxter are raising their own championship wrestling team in a small Lake Goodwin-area neighborhood. Karrie homeschools them, while Baxter is their coach.

In the yard is a pull-up bar. In the living room, hanging on a wall, are dozens of medals won by the boys. In another part of the house is an impressive collection of trophies.

The oldest boy, Dustin, is only 13. Michael is 8, Tommy 6 and Johnny 4. Little sister Breezie is 1 1/2.

“If she wants to wrestle …” dad said. “Washington is spearheading the nation in wrestling. Girls from Washington are getting a lot of the wrestling scholarships.” But that’s a way off. She was wearing a pink dress and trying to copy the boys as the tumbled about the living room.

As you might guess, Duxtin wrestled in high school in Indiana. But while he got three college scholarship offers, he decided on being a running back at Montana State University instead. He played for two years before deciding to quit and focus on getting a degree. That’s also where he met Karrie. She came from a ranching family, so he wasn’t sure how she’d take to wrestling.

“I never thought this would be my life, but it’s fun,” she said. She added that she likes how it teaches her kids about hard work, discipline and making friends. “She’s their biggest fan,” Baxter said.

Started at young age

Dustin started wrestling when he was just a couple years old. He later would wrestle his younger brother David. But David died in an accident when he was 3. Dustin gave up wrestling for a while. “Without Dave it wasn’t fun anymore,” Baxter said. But when he was 7, Dustin decided to take it up again. He has been excelling ever since. He won state this year at 83 pounds, and made the Schoolboy Team Washington squad that competed in nationals at Indianapolis.

At a huge meet in Prineville, Ore., he was named the most outstanding wrestler by the coaches. Baxter said one of his opponents was much bigger, even though they were in the same weight class. “I don’t cut weight,” Baxter said of starving his kids so they can wrestle in a lower weight class. “They gotta eat.” But Dustin’s foe was probably 90 pounds and cut down to 83. “He towered over him,” Baxter said.

Dustin won the top honor by pinning many of his opponents, and for showing good sportsmanship. Baxter teaches them to shake not only their opponent’s hand, but the referee’s as well. “People are always on them. It’s cutthroat,” he said of how fans treat refs.

Eventually Dustin will wrestle for Marysville Getchell High School, but next year he will wrestle for Cedarcrest Middle School. Dustin said he likes wrestling because it’s fun, he likes working to get better, and he enjoys winning the trophies and ribbons.

But for their dad, it’s all about being a “good citizen and doing the right thing.”

Michael also excels

Dustin isn’t the only wrestling standout in the family. Michael had 95 wins one year, and won a huge MMA-style belt by taking all three wrestling titles at a tournament in Idaho. Along with the regular high school form of wrestling called folkstyle, they also compete in freestyle and Greco-Roman.

Baxter said Dustin and Michael are so knowledgeable about the sport that he’s more of an adviser than a coach to them. “Michael often sees something before I do,” his dad said.

Tommy has had his memorable moments, too. He was losing once 10-0 and started crying. Trying to make him feel better, his dad said he would take him out for ice cream afterward. That must have done something to fire him up because he turned the entire match around and pinned his foe.

The boys support each other, too, their parents said. After one match a brother lost, Dustin was even more upset than his brother and had to take a walk.

Baxter an intense coach

Baxter works for Boeing as a mechanical engineer, and one weekend a month he trains officer candidates at Camp Murray near Fort Lewis for the National Guard.

And he doesn’t just coach his own kids. He also runs a nonprofit wrestling club for about 80 families called the Punisher Wrestler Company. It’s named after a popular Marvel Comics character, along with Baxter being a company commander in the military. Kids come from all over the area to practice at MG.

“I’m known for having intense practices,” he said, adding the club is for wrestlers who want to take it to the next level.

They travel for meets to locations all over the western United States.

“You gotta see different types of competition,” Baxter said. “Different regions are a lot tougher.”

He said his boys don’t do much weight lifting. He said workouts are more from his football and military background with conditioning. They do a lot with sprints, hill climbs and gymnastics.

They don’t have a gym in their home so they are often rumbling and tumbling about the living room. “They’ve destroyed this house,” dad said.

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