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PORT ANGELES — High school wrestling fans are in for a pre-Christmas treat as the Port Angeles Roughriders host their eighth-annual Olympic Shootout team tournament Saturday.
Also called The Battle for the Axe, the tourney will feature eight teams fighting in a dual-meet format for the right to display the Axe trophy for a year.
This year’s tourney will feature three North Olympic Peninsula teams and several state placers.
Port Angeles rival Sequim and 1A powerhouse Forks will join the host Roughriders for a strong area flavor.
“This year may be the most competitive Battle for the Axe yet with the quality of the teams from top to bottom in attendance,” Port Angeles coach Erik Gonzalez said.
“Many returning state placers will be in action with a competitive balance between the teams. All in all, it will be quite a battle.”
The tourney also will feature 3A power Bainbridge, 2A schools Bremerton and River Ridge, and another 1A powerhouse in Eatonville.
The Riders and Wolves are both 2A schools.
The eighth squad will be made up of a JV dream team.
Also, a JV round-robin tourney will run between varsity rounds so that all wrestlers will get a chance to compete in this final tournament before holiday break starting next week.
The eight teams will be split into two pools of four followed by a crossover round to determine placement.
Awards will go to the most outstanding wrestler and the top three teams.
The Riders are a two-time defending champion.
“We’re hoping to win it for a third year in a row,” Gonzalez said.
The Riders also won the Axe the first year and will be going after their fourth overall team championship.
Gonzalez is expecting to receive a lot of competition for the Axe.
Bainbridge, the lone 3A school, archrival Sequim and River Ridge are in the same pool as the defending champion.
“On our side of the pool, Bainbridge will be strong and Sequim always wrestle us tough,” Gonzalez said.
One of the highlights of the tourney will be the face-off between the Riders and Wolves at 1:30 p.m. in the third round.
In Pool 2 are Forks, Bremerton, Eatonville and the JV Dream Team.
“There are three good teams on the other side,” Gonzalez said.
The veteran Port Angeles coach is expecting Eatonville to be right there like it was last year.
“Bremerton is improved and Forks is in the mix, too. Forks has built their program back up, and they are tough.
“That would be a good match, us going against Forks in the championship round.”
The Riders, near or at the top of every tourney they have wrestled in this year, are loaded in the lower and upper weights, but are young and inexperienced in the middle weights.
“We are real loaded in the bottom and top weights,” Gonzalez said.
This would be a good time for his youthful middle-weight wrestlers to make the step to the next level during this home tourney, Gonzalez added.
Some of the top wrestlers for the Port Angeles program are 106 Tyler Gale at 106 pounds, Brady Anderson at 113, Josh Basden at 120, Ozzy Swagerty at 126, Brian Cristion at 170, Matt Robbins at 182, Roberto Coronel at 220 and Michael Myers at heavyweight, 285.
Round one opens at 10 a.m. with the Riders taking on River Ridge, Sequim wrestling Bainbridge, Forks going against the Dream Team and Bremerton battling Eatonville.
Round two, starting at 11:30 a.m., pits the Riders vs. Bainbridge, Sequim against River Ridge, Forks against Eatonville and Bremerton vs. Dream Team.
During round three at 1:30 p.m. will be the big Port Angeles-Sequim showdown, Bainbridge vs. River Ridge, Forks against Bremerton and Eatonville taking on the Dream Team.
The crossover matches start at 3 p.m. with the No. 1 teams from each pool wrestling for the championship, and the No. 2, No. 3 and No. 4 teams facing each other.
The Port Angeles Wrestling booster club will be selling concessions as well as apparel with all proceeds going to benefit the Port Angeles Roughrider wrestling program.