EDITOR’S NOTE: We continue our Valley high school winter sports previews today with a look at Cedarcrest High School’s wrestling team, as it adjusts to life with a new coach this season. The SVSJ was at Mount Si High School yesterday gathering interviews for our remaining Wildcat team previews, for basketball and wrestling, and we’ll have those for you starting on Thanksgiving morning before you get started on cooking your turkey.
Cedarcrest High School’s wrestling program has a new leader this season, but the goals remain the same: being a strong, competitive force in the Cascade Conference with an eye on sending athletes to state.
Mark Ward takes over as the Red Wolves’ coach, and the first-year head man has several top returning athletes this season. Leading the way is senior Bryce McKee. McKee is expected to wrestle at 182 lbs., and Ward is looking for a lot from this senior leader. “Bryce is looking to have a great senior year. He’s been wrestling all summer and has set his sights on getting on the podium in Tacoma,” Ward said by email to the SVSJ.
Another senior to watch is at the 132 lb. weight class. Connor Lemons, according to the new coach, also has eyes on the Tacoma Dome. “Connor has been wrestling all summer and attending camps and also has goals of placing at state,” Ward said.
Two other seniors to keep an eye on are at 190. Elliot Dick and Donald Lay will be competing all season for varsity opportunities, according to Ward, and that competition will be a good one to watch for Cedarcrest fans.
The lightweight classes have top newcomers this season for the Red Wolves. Parker McBride is a freshman and is expected to compete at 112 lbs. “Parker is going to be an exciting young freshman to keep an eye on. We are really counting on Parker to make a big splash this year,” Ward said.
Another freshman Ward likes is at 138. Brandon Nicholas-Emigdio has experience in the sport, and is looking to translate his success at the youth level into high school competition. “Brandon is a dedicated wrestler who is determined to be successful. I’m really excited to see how he develops,” the coach said.
Ward is unsure of where his team fits into the Cascade Conference picture, but is looking for a solid season nonetheless. “We are expecting to be competitive in the conference,” he said. “We have a young team that is going to be improving every week. I’m not too concerned with how we’ll fit into the conference picture. We are focusing on getting better every day and we’ll let the cards fall where they fall.” Look for Archbishop Murphy to likely provide the toughest opposition for the Red Wolves, but other teams to watch could include Granite Falls and King’s.
Ward is looking for skill development in his athletes, regardless of individual match outcomes. “My coaching philosophy isn’t centered around individual wins and losses,” he said. “I believe if our kids focus on becoming the best wrestlers they can, the wins will follow. Our emphasis in the room is on perfecting the basic fundamentals of wrestling. Our goal as a team is to push each other to get better each and every day. We believe if we are successful in doing that, then we will have success in the post season.”
CHS opens the season December 6 with a tournament appearance at the White River Classic, then opens their home schedule December 10 with a “double dual” meet at Cedarcrest High School. The Red Wolves, including that opener, will have four home dates this winter – in addition to the double dual meet, they are home December 18 against Sultan, January 15 against Granite Falls and January 29 against South Whidbey. Cedarcrest, along with the White River event, will be competing in four other weekend tournaments during the season, including the Sky Valley Invitational in Sultan January 10, and will also have a road date January 12 against Mount Si for local bragging rights. All home matches begin at 6:45 p.m. inside Cedarcrest High School’s gym in Duvall.