ILWACO — Ilwaco’s wrestling team starts a new era after the departure of its two State champions and two other regional champions. Of six wrestlers who placed at State last year, only Ghannon Whelden (sixth place in 113-pound class) returns. Champions Alec Bell and Jack Odneal graduated, as did Daylin Kemmer, Wilfredo Mendez and Tony Merino, all state placers. Brandon McMullen, another State placer, plans to take his senior year off from wrestling to recover from football season. However, along with Whelden, the Fishermen bring back five wrestlers who made it to State last year without placing, plus Joe Thompson, who made it to State two years ago.
“I don’t like to use the word rebuilding,” coach Kevin McNulty said. He is pleased with the turnout. “We’re in the mid-40s. Not all of them are experienced, but we have a good nucleus.”
Aaron Chetwood is among the Fishermen’s rising stars. He took fifth at Regionals last year to make it to State in his freshman year in the 106-pound weight class. Trevor Hutson wrestled for the first time last year, his freshman year, and made it to Regionals, where he was sixth place. Hans Amor is also coming off a big year as a first-time wrestler.
“Most of our first-time wrestlers from last year put in time at camp this summer. Most kids did two wrestling camps; some did more,” McNulty said.
Whelden was second at District and third at Regionals last season before going 3-1 at State for his sixth-place finish.
“Any move is worth it. You have to learn them all, but pick a few to really focus on,” Whelden said. “On my feet, I like to go to the fireman’s carrier,” going low, grabbing the opponent’s leg with both arms and simply lifting him and carrying him to the ground.
Teammate Trenton Cox lost to Whelden at State; Cox, Chetwood and Whelden give the Fishermen a strong group in the lightweights.
At the heaviest weight, with wrestlers weighing 221-285, Cahlabe Whelden and Marcello Lazaro each won a match at State. (Lazaro’s win came against Whelden.)
In between, the only returning Fishermen wrestler from State last year is Marcus Connor, who finished fifth at Regionals and went 1-1 in Tacoma. Joe Thompson, now a senior, went 2-2 at State in 2016, the same year his brother Riki won the title. Royce Murry, Hutson, Allen Chetwood and Cahlin McNabb were all State alternates last year.
Ilwaco has replenished its girls wrestling roster, with five turning out this year, including Kasey Bageant, who went to State as an alternate two years ago. Track star Cheyenne Bent will wrestle as a senior. Sophomores Kamryn Anjos and Serena Kuhn join the team, as does senior Ajora Ekvall.