Chris Holterman is in his 30th year at Rainier High School as the wrestling coach, and the 2023-24 team will be the largest group of wrestlers he has coached yet.
A total of 47 wrestlers — 25 boys and 22 girls — make up the jam-packed roster, and while he admitted that it’s tough for coaches to get to everyone, it is a great problem to have.
“We’re over double the size that we had last year,” Holterman said. “There’s a lot of learning, but they seem to be working hard and having a good time. As for why we had the sudden growth, I think kids are finally starting to realize that wrestling is a good sport.”
The Mountaineers have a blend of experienced returners and eager newcomers, including 13 girls without wrestling experience. They have eight state participants, including junior Zander Peck, who finished fifth at state last winter, and sophomore Dorien Cano, who finished fourth at state.
Junior Keira Anderson also participated at state, as well as seniors Mason Hornby, Matthew Kenney, Ryder Cruse, Emma Desotell and Katherine Kinahan.
With such a packed room, Holterman and his staff have prioritized giving the veterans what they need and bringing along the newcomers, describing it as a “delicate balancing act.”
“There’s nobody that’s so good that they can’t work on basic stuff,” he said. “Even the kids that have been around for years can still work on basics. When we start moving into the newer stuff, the older kids that are a little more experienced get an opportunity to teach.”
For Anderson, the leadership aspect didn’t come naturally, but she said the team is close, and the newcomers trust the veterans’ knowledge.
“It’s definitely something that I’m embracing, but it’s something new,” she said. “I’m usually more of a quiet, reserved person, but it’s pretty cool to be able to teach other people.”
Desotell is excited to welcome so many new athletes to the mat as the team had always been relatively small in her first couple of years.
“It had gone up a few over the years, and it just jumped this year, which I think is fantastic. Since there are more girls, there’s more opportunities to win at tournaments because of the amount of team points we can get. We are a very good team. We’re very close and we get along very well.”
Cano and Peck got a taste of what it takes to be successful at state, but they are hungry for more this year.
“I feel like we can score a lot of points during tournaments and add some trophies to our trophy case,” Cano said.
“We’re all having a good time and putting in hard work. I feel like we’ll go far this year,” Peck added. “Our goal is just to do our best. I feel like there’s a lot of good contenders for state this year.”
The team’s core values are being positive, being a good teammate and giving 100%. Holterman said that since the team’s first practice on Nov. 13, the Mountaineers have exhibited those three values and have big goals for the season.
“If the kids get frustrated now, we always tell them that we’re coaching for February. It’s all right that you’re not winning right now,” Holterman said. “It doesn’t matter because we’re training for February. That’s when it counts.”
On Saturday, Dec. 2, the Mountaineers boys team unofficially won the Ocosta Invitational by outdistancing host Ocosta with 84-66. Peck and Cano finished first in their weight classes, while Evan Delaney and Mason Lantz placed second; Matthew Kenney and Jayden Alegarbes placed third; and Jacob Scott, Addison Poole and Blake Roberts placed fourth. In the Jump On In Girls Wrestling Tournament at Yelm High School on Saturday, Anderson placed fourth in her weight class.
The girls next wrestled at Decatur High School on Tuesday, Dec. 5, but results were not available before press time. The boys hosted Yelm High School on Tuesday, but results of that meet were also unavailable before press time.