The Port Townsend High School wrestling team may not overwhelm opponents with numbers, but several Redhawks have the postseason in their sights.
Five wrestlers are ranked in the top 12 in their individual weight classes, and most of them return with some experience at the Class 1A Mat Classic state tournament.
“We’re not very big, but everyone here is good,” Redhawks coach Steve Grimm said. “These ones, nobody quits. Everybody pushes each other in drills really well.”
Seniors Gabe Petrick and Brenna Franklin lead the group, but juniors Dylan Tracer and Wes Blue are right behind them, and Chimacum High School sophomore Kyle Caldwell is right in the mix.
Petrick, ranked ninth at 160 pounds, also is a drum major for the PTHS band. That’s come into play at least once this season, when he left a wrestling tournament to conduct a concert one night and performed the following night in the band.
He still placed fourth in December at the Hammerhead Invitational, one of the bigger tournaments in the state, even though he forfeited the matches he missed.
“Gabe is a very technical wrestler,” Grimm said. “He’s very smart and strategic when he wrestles. He goes out there and knocks off the big guys often.”
Petrick reached the state meet last year but missed out on advancing in the consolation bracket with a tough 3-2 loss.
“I got a takedown in the first round,” Petrick remembered, recapping his 2-0 lead against Braden Williams, a senior from Chelan. “He started on the bottom in the second round, got an escape and then got a takedown.”
Trailing by one going into the third and final round, Petrick started in the bottom position, needing only to scramble to his feet and away from Williams’ control to tie the match. But Williams didn’t allow that to happen, and Petrick’s season came to an end.
Grimm said Petrick should be in line for a top-five finish this year.
“He’ll wear on you out on the mat,” Grimm said.
Franklin is the Redhawks’ top girls wrestler who returns after going 1-2 at state in the 155 division last year.
“In her last tournament, she only technically wrestled for about 1 minute,” Grimm said. “She had three matches, and each was only about 30 seconds long.”
Franklin’s No. 4 ranking is statewide, because the girls wrestlers aren’t separated by school classification.
Tracer is one of Port Townsend’s top juniors. He finished fourth at the Hammerhead Invitational and won his
division at the North Mason Invitational. He’s come up from the 170 class last year to wrestle at 182.
After he broke his left knee during his freshman season, he made it all the way to the Tacoma Dome for the state tournament last year, although he went 0-2.
“My eighth-grade year, I went in the weight room and worked on my upper body for three months,” Tracer said. “I was the team manager that year.”
Grimm said Tracer lost to a wrestler from Klahowya during a dual meet earlier in the year but bounced back and beat the same athlete in the finals at North Mason just three weeks later.
“He’s lost some matches, but by the time he figures it out, there’s not a single guy I’ve seen who can beat him,” Grimm said.
Tracer is motivated to reach the podium at state this year.
“I’m craving a state medal,” he said.
Blue is a little undersized, weighing just 202 pounds in the 220 division. He’s also pretty raw, considering it’s just his second year on the mat. But he’s fit right in, and he’s thriving.
“Something that’s unique to Port Townsend teams is that they just welcome you right in,” Blue said.
Blue was named a second team all-Olympic League defensive lineman for his play on the football field this year, and some of those skills translate to the mat.
Blue said Grimm asked him several times to join the wrestling team, and he eventually said yes.
“I wasn’t going to say no to coach,” Blue said.
In his first wrestling season last year, Blue bruised his ribs just before the district tournament and still reached the regional round. He eventually fell one match shy of advancing to state.
“Last year was my experimental year,” he said.
In contrast, Caldwell is just a sophomore but has several years under his belt, including an undefeated eighth-grade year.
“It’s just kind of something I picked up,” he said.
He’s also not afraid to go up in weight class as he did last month during a tournament at Chief Sealth. Caldwell weighed 198 pounds and wrestled that weekend in the 220-pound division, where he finished second.
“That’s what got me ranked,” he said.
Grimm said there’s a big difference between Petrick’s technical skills and Caldwell’s strength.
“Kyle is just a brute,” Grimm said. “Sometimes you forget he’s a sophomore. He’s just so darn strong.
“He’ll brawl with you and beat you up, and win that way.”