Wrestling returns to Ferndale with high hopes

Submitted photo – Ferndale wrestlers Chance Wright, middle, and Nathan Wence, left, along with coach Levi Buck at the McKinleyville tournament.

By Ray Hamill — Wrestling is back at Ferndale High this year, and the Wildcats appear to be in it for the long haul.

After an 11-year break, the Cats competed in the sport at the McKinleyville tournament last weekend, and while the team has just three wrestlers on hand right now, new head coach Levi Buck believes there’s a great opportunity to establish the program moving forward.

“We’re trying to build it for the long haul,” said Buck said, who was a senior wrestler for the Cats the last time they fielded a team. “I’ve had a lot interest from the seventh and eighth graders (in the area), and that’s neat to see, to see the excitement around the sport.”

And it’s not just the Ferndale community that’s glad to see the Cats back on the mats this winter.

“As soon as we showed up at McKinleyville, I received a lot of support from the other coaches,” Buck said. “The whole wrestling community, it is competitive, but compared to other sports it’s one big community.”

The Wildcats are one of two new teams competing in the H-DNL this season, along with South Fork, while the Hoopa Warriors have some good numbers and appear ready to challenge the bigger schools this season under second-year head coach Merk Robbins.

The Cats feature just three wrestlers right now, but all of them are eager to help establish the program once again.

Senior Chance Wright placed third at 145 pounds at McKinleyville and Buck believes he has the talent and drive to challenge for a league crown.

Wright, who will likely drop to 138 pounds for league, wrestled at Eureka High before transferring to Ferndale and his experience should help his younger teammates, junior Nathan Wence and sophomore Kacey Luster.

“He’s got an incredible amount of ability,” Buck said of Wright. “I’ve told him I’d like to see him win a county championship.”

Wence, meanwhile, is a first-time wrestler who will compete at 152 and he got his career off to an impressive start with a victory at McKinleyville.

“Winning a match with just four weeks of wrestling experience, that’s pretty commendable,” Buck said.

Luster also is expected to make some noise at 160.

“He has a lot of potential,” the head coach said. “He’s a very strong kid with a lot of fight in him.”

Looking after the new team has also been an adjustment for the coach, and not just from a coaching standpoint.

The team is currently practicing on an old beat-up mat and of course had to get some new uniforms.

“Our goal is to buy a new mat by the end of the season,” Buck said.

The setbacks haven’t dampened anyone’s enthusiasm and the wrestlers have embraced the challenge.

“They’re coachable, and they’re easy to work with, easy going,” Buck said. “They’re just fun to be around and they want to be here it seems like.”

The Cats won’t compete at any more tournaments before league begins in January, but they are hoping to scrimmage South Fork at some stage to continue their preparation.

As for the team’s goals this season?

“I’d like to see (Wright) win a county championship, and for the rest of the guys to learn the sport and be competitive,” Buck said. “And just to finish the season and see the program grow and build, and show the school we’re for real and we will be competitive.

“And hopefully next year we’ll double our numbers.”

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