Senior captains Owen Baebler (195 pounds), Colin Farrell (182 pounds) and Jack Harper (160 pounds) are leading by example for a young Mercer Island wrestling team.
The three captains were chosen by their teammates, something that Farrell said makes it even more meaningful.
“I wasn’t planning to be a captain, it was something the younger wrestlers voted us into,” Farrell said. “When you know you were voted in and chosen by your other teammates, it really makes you feel proud and it makes you want to be the best leader that you can.”
Farrell said that being a captain and a leader means that you have to put in more work, doing things like cleaning the mats and making sure everyone has their gear.
For Baebler, a big part of being a leader is setting an example for the younger wrestlers through your actions.
“Being a captain doesn’t mean you’re an extension of the coaches or that you’re above everyone else,” Baebler said. “It means you have more responsibility. It means that you are one of the wrestlers who has to show an extra level of leadership and respect to teammates and opponents.”
In his fourth season on the wrestling team, Harper said he’s able to help the younger wrestlers with the unique parts of wrestling.
“I feel like I’ve been able to help a lot of them with adapting to some of the unique things you have to do,” Harper said. “Things like cutting weight and working harder in practice than you may be used to in other sports.”
Even though it’s their final season on the wrestling team, all three are excited for the future of the program.
“I’m really excited,” Baebler said. “We have three seniors and everyone else on our team will be returning. It should be an exciting team to watch in the next few years.”
One of the key pieces for the Islanders now and in the future, is freshman Chris Neal (138 pounds). Harper said it’s exciting to see a young wrestler with so much promise.
“I personally wasn’t the best at first, but I was able to get better,” Harper said. “So to see someone already at that level, where you’re already able to succeed at that age is pretty exciting.”
The Islanders have had some of the wrestlers from Islander Middle School practice with the high school team.
“It’s really exciting to see the future of the program,” Farrell said. “To have young kids who are enthusiastic to practice because they love the sport, not because their coach is telling them to work harder. It’s their off-season, but they’re coming in and working just as hard as the high schoolers who are just beginning to prepare for the postseason.”
All three seniors hope to make it to the Mat Classic in February. Baebler, who is looking to return to the state tournament for the second year in a row, is focused on finishing his season strong.
“As soon as the postseason hits, I want to be the best I can,” Baebler said. “My ultimate goal is to be a state champion, so I’m going in with the mindset that I’m better than the wrestler that I’m going against.”
Harper, who is also hoping to return to state, said he is focused on getting the most out of his senior season.
“I’m really just trying to make the most of it,” Harper said. “I don’t think I’ll be wrestling again, so I’m really trying to get as much out of this last year as I possibly can.”
Baebler and Farrell are wrestling partners at practice, so the two know each other very well. Farrell said that forces him to work on perfecting his technique.
“He knows all of the moves that I like and and he knows the defense to all of them,” Farrell said.
Baebler said going against Farrell at practice every day has made him a better wrestler.
“He’s really good on his feet,” Baebler said. “He’s really athletic and quick. You can’t settle with one move, you have to go to the second, third or fourth move. I’m fortunate, because he’s one of the best wrestlers in the state.”