Pirate wrestlers receive top rank

The Pirate wrestlers competed in the Stimson and TP Freight Invitational in Tillamook on Nov. 30. The top finisher for Neah-Kah-Nie was Travis Bennett, who placed third at the 220 weight class. – Headlight-Herald / Max Kirkendall

If the Neah-Kah-Nie wrestling team was not on other school’s radar as a team to beat this season, they certainly will be soon.
By Max Kirkendall
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The Pirate wrestlers are coming into the 2018-19 season with a full squad of boys who have state tournament experience. And because of that, the state is taking notice as they garnered a No. 5 ranking in the preseason poll.
“We have five returning state qualifiers this year and about seven who have a good amount of experience wrestling,” head coach Chris Bennett said. “We definitely have the ability to have at least five in the top four spots at state this year. We’re hoping to get at least two or three in the finals.”
The Pirates opened the season at the Stimson and TP Freight Invitational on Nov. 30 in Tillamook. Facing 10 other schools from higher classifications, Bennett made the decision to have just three of his wrestlers compete in the varsity tournament including Austin Dunn, Jacob Waldron and Travis Bennett. The top finisher for the Pirates was Travis who earned a third place finish in the competitive 220 weight class. Coach Bennett was pleased with his team’s effort and was glad to see some of Travis’ hard work pay off against some top tier competition.
“I thought overall the tournament went well for us,” coach Bennett said. “Travis has been working his tail off so far this year and I think he’s really improved. He’s wrestling heavy right now because we want him to go up against some tougher kids before we drop him back down to the 195 weight class.”
Other wrestlers Bennett is expecting to be key contributors are Jett Johnston, Travis Jonsson and Ecca Fry. Bennett is also happy to have newcomer Kaden Mendenhall on the team this year that has experience wrestling.
“Kaden wrestled in middle school and with the Matt Club here then he took a few years off, but we’re happy to have him back and he’s looking pretty tough this year,” coach Bennett said.
The Neah-Kah-Nie team is also waiting the return of top wrestler Tristan Bennett, who is recovering from an injury he suffered during football season.
“He’s been on the bike and doing a lot of core work,” coach Bennett said. “We are hoping to get him back by the first of the year. If we can do that, than he’ll be able to get into good enough shape for the rest of the season.”
Bennett has set a few lofty goals for his team this season that include getting six or seven guys qualified for state and hopefully hoisting a team trophy. However, with the new classification, Bennett knows it will be competitive.
“We should be pretty tough when it comes to State, but with some of the schools that have dropped down it’s going to be really hard to get a team trophy this year,” coach Bennett said. “We would really like to finish with a trophy and we know it won’t be easy, but if we could finish in the top three I think that’d be really great for us.”

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