The South Lakes High wrestling team will be competing at the Liberty District championships this weekend at Langley High School. South Lakes, under head coach Bruce Hall, enters the postseason following a somewhat chaotic regular season in which the team has had to adjust to player losses as a result of geographical moves, several injuries, illnesses and other issues.
Even so, the Seahawks entered the final week of the regular season with a winning record of 11-10-1 overall and 4-3 in the Liberty. It marks the second year in a row in which the Seahawks, who over the past decade or so had struggled to win even a handful of matches each winter, have put together a winning record under Hall, who has revitalized the program during his couple of years at the helm.
Throughout this turbulent season – a result of all the changes in the line-up - the Seahawks have been stabilized by the leadership they have received from underclassmen Justin Williams (130-weight class), Ryan Forrest (135) and Jake Slover (171).
“I’m more proud of this team than any I’ve ever had,” said Hall, a long time athletic coach in the Northern Region.
Forrest, a sophomore and the team’s lone returning district champion from last year, is 25-1 this winter. Williams, a junior, has 15 victories, and Slover, also a junior, has struggled through a physically demanding season but enters districts with a solid 12-7 record. Slover is unbeaten in district matches.
“He’s just starting to hit his stride right now,” said Hall, of Slover.
Other good seasons have come from: sophomore Harrison Drier (112); junior Andrew Goldberg, a third year varsity wrestler; freshman Michael Shoebottom, who is 3-1 in district matches; junior Haris Hafizi (152), who holds a stellar 18-3 record; senior Alex Stanley (189), who is having a terrific winter for the Seahawks; sophomore Owen Wolfe (215), whose 6-5 decision win two weeks ago clinched South Lakes’ 36-33 team win at Washington-Lee High on Jan. 20; and junior Eduardo Molina (heavyweight), who is 3-1 in the district.
South Lakes is young across the board with just two seniors – Stanley and Phillip Kroke (135).
<b>THE BETTER TEAMS</b> in this year’s district are defending champion Langley, Fairfax, Marshall and South Lakes. At districts, the top four place finishers in each weight class will earn medals and advance to the following weekend’s region championships. Both Slover (171) and Forrest (135) are expected to go into districts as No. 1 seeds in their respective weight categories, while Williams (130) could also get a top seeding. Stanley will be a No. 2 or 3 seed at 189 and Hafizi (152) will likely be a No. 3.
“If we could send 10 or more wrestlers to regionals, that would be great,” said Hall.
Districts will begin Friday evening at Langley. Action will continue Saturday morning with the finals likely to take place in the early to mid-afternoon.
“We’re trying to stay healthy and in shape this week,” said Hall. “We’re working hard and the kids I’ve got in my weight room right now are really dedicated. This is a group of tough kids.”