It’s a rough-and-tumble crew of wrestlers, assembled by a coach that wanted to provide West End teens with a positive outlet for their energy.
But don’t be intimidated by the team’s name — Pit Bull Wrestling.
“People misunderstand pit bull dogs, and so it is with some people being misunderstood,” says the coach, Phill Sifuentes.
Pit Bull Wrestling is a member of the USA Wrestling league. The nationwide league is to wrestling as Golden Gloves is to boxing.
All of the Pit Bull wrestlers are students at Forks High School and are on the high school team as well, regularly training after high school practice is over.
The gym at the Hoh Reservation was the birthplace of Pit Bull Wrestling.
Joel Ward, now a senior from the Hoh, was the first to join. Currently, there are six wrestlers on the team. They use the Forks Middle School gym and track for practice.
Sifuentes reached out to kids because he was concerned about them.
“I noticed all these kids standing around not doing anything,” Sifuentes said.
“I would hate to see them turn to drugs and alcohol out of boredom, so I asked them if they wanted to wrestle.”
The Pit Bull program leaves absolutely no time for boredom.
“We are open to anyone” said Sifuentes. “The trouble is, most people watch our practice and don’t want to come back.”
Said Sebastian “Little Sea Bass” Morales, a junior at Forks High:
“It is not fun. But it gets us in the best shape we can be in.”
It is easy to understand the “not fun.’
Running 14 miles on the track and waking up in the pre-dawn hours to train is more dedication than many are interested in giving.
“It’s a lot like the fitness boot camps,” Sifuentes said.
Each individual on the team competes in a class that is determined by the wrestler’s weight.
Forks High School Wrestling Coach Bob Wheeler said the off-season training helps with the high school team’s results.
“This year I am looking forward to having this team, with so many seniors, all of the freestyle stuff they have been practicing, and the camps they have been attending,” Wheeler said.
“This should be a very, very good team. I believe we have a really great shot at State.”
Wheeler added that being in the top ten is a good showing, but the trophies only go to the top four teams.
Will Forks bring home a trophy?
To do so, the wrestlers have no room for extra pounds to creep in.
Enrique Barragan, a senior from the Hoh, described the process of trying to cut weight.
“We try to take all the water out of our bodies by sweating it out,” Barragan said.
“Then maybe eat some dry toast and go to bed early so the cravings for more food go away.”
At state tournaments, exact weight must be maintained for at least the two days of competition.
Breaking out of weight class (two pounds of wiggle-room) causes some to completely break down.
In spite of these challenges, last year Ward took third, while Barragan and “Little Sea Bass” took eighth in their respective weight classes at the state championships at the Tacoma Dome.
It is common to find middle-schoolers admiring this team. The dedication of Pit Bull wrestlers yields results that go beyond the mat to confidence in personality.
Garrison Schumack, a freshman from LaPush, saw this elite team and pursued them while he was in middle school.
“I was in eighth grade and undefeated. I went to the high school coach and asked about Phill,” Schumack said.
He soon found out that you are not on the team until you have been pushed to your limit; if you crack, you have to go.
Sebastian “Big Sea Bass” Barragan, another senior from the Hoh, was also the team captain for the high school team when he was a sophomore.
“It was hard being captain with kids older than you,” he said. “I never try to put myself higher than anybody. My job is to motivate and encourage them.”
At this time, wrestlers, both boys and girls, come from all over the state and Oregon to train with the team.
Said Nanito Sanchez, a senior from Forks:
“I looked up to Enrique, Sebastian and Joel. I wanted to be like them and I worked hard to get here.”
Heather Schumack, Garrison’s mom, said Phill is willing to be there for her son any time of the day.
“Phill has a family of his own,” she said. “Yet he is there to provide gas, food and hotel for the meets.”
She added the program has made a large impact on her son’s life.
“It is amazing what it has done to turn him into a young man. The wrestling is an avenue to let his frustration out,” she said.
At present, the seniors on the team are preparing for their last years of competition as minors.
They expect to go to Reno and possibly Las Vegas to compete.