Decatur boys wrestling easily handles Federal Way on the mat

Gators win 65-16 on senior night, turn toward postseason.

Decatur boys wrestling sent out their seniors with a convincing win over inner city rival Federal Way, 65-16, on Jan. 10 at Decatur High School.

“I think we are finally starting to come along as far as like where we should be in the season. We’re starting to pin guys, which is good,” Head Coach Zach Cardwell said.

“(We) have put in a lot of hard work. Lots of bruises and blood in the wrestling room. It’s just a lot of hard work,” senior Victor Santiago said.

Expectations are high and the Gators want to meet those expectations.

“Honestly Federal Way is not the team we are looking to peak against. We want to peak in the postseason. … We’re getting closer to where we need to be,” Cardwell said.

Last year Decatur surprised a lot of teams with a strong youth core of wrestlers, even surprising their head coach. The experience from a year ago makes the Gators a better team, top to bottom.

“It allows them not only to have the expectation that we can make it to state, but now they can bring everyone else up with them and say, ‘Hey we can be this good as a team and not just individuals,’” Cardwell said.

Decatur sent three boys to the Tacoma Dome for the Mat Classic a year ago, with Nehemiah Washington placing fifth at 195.

“Nehemiah obviously brings everybody up. But I think we should have a lot of guys going to state and should place. That’s been the expectation going into practice,” Cardwell said.

The Gators dominated the Eagles and sat themselves in the driver’s seat as the best wrestling school in the city. Winning a match against a city rival on senior night just felt right for the Gator wrestlers: “It feels amazing. It was the last one and it’s a good way to go out, “ Santiago said.

Decatur recognized 13 seniors against Federal Way and a group with that much veteran presence can help ground a program.

“It comes from the experience of our older guys,” Cardwell said on resolve from his group. “They know we are training for postseason; it doesn’t matter if we have a duel the next day, we are training hard for the postseason. We want to peak at that time, and I think we’re getting to that point where they look really good as a team,” he added.

Wrestling is a grueling sport, with a lot of matches on back-to-back days and tournaments that start at 8 a.m. and go on until 9 p.m. It’s no doubt hard to stay positive during those times, but training the mind is as important as training the body.

“I get down a lot after matches that I lose,” Santiago said. “But like my coach says, wrestlers have short-term memories. We forget it and move on to the next match.”