MATT SCHUBERT’S PREP NOTES: One win goes a long way

WRESTLING HAS A way of fostering independence.

The individual nature of the sport forces wrestlers to succeed on their merits alone.

It took Port Angeles junior Brian Hergert, legally blind since birth, nearly two years to achieve that. Once he did, it changed his life forever.

The way Joseph Dlugo tells it, the 119-pound grappler became a different person the instant his arm was raised in victory for the first time.

“In all the previous years I’ve known him, I have not seen Brian grow as much as he’s grown since that moment,” said Dlugo, an orientation and mobility specialist for the Washington State School for the Blind.

“He had to work really hard to get his first win. When he got it, it was really something that boosted his confidence, because he knew that he worked extremely hard for it and it paid off.”

Dlugo has worked nearly six years with Hergert as part of the School for the Blind’s outreach program.

After scoring that victory (a pin, no less) near the end of his sophomore season, Hergert’s independence as a special needs student grew by leaps and bounds.

That growth spurred Dlugo to nominate Hergert for the Rod Humble Award, an honor given to a student who receives services from the outreach program and shows exemplary progress in two or more areas of the expanded core curriculum (i.e. travel skills and self advocacy.)

Hergert is just the second student in the past three years to be presented the award, named after the founder of the school’s outreach program.

“From where he came from to where he is now was just such an astounding jump,” Dlugo said. “Two years ago I was dealing with a different kid. He’s just come such a long way.

“He’s able to communicate so many of his special needs because of his visual impairment, and he is able to have so much more confidence in his travel skills.”

Port Angeles wrestling coach Erik Gonzalez has witnessed that first hand.

Hergert, who now also competes for the Rider track and field team, won a handful of matches his junior year. In the offseason, he’s stepped it up in the weight room as well.

“In years past he would be perfectly content with or even ask to be led around through the locker room [and other places],” Gonzalez said. “Now, he won’t accept that.

“He doesn’t need it, and he knows it. It’s taken us a while to get him to that point, but he’s developed it.”

That much of the credit for that stems from his experiences on the mat is of little surprise to Gonzalez.

“He believes he can do things now that he didn’t believe he could do in the past,” Gonzalez said. “I wouldn’t say that’s necessarily any different than most kids.

“Wrestling will do that for you. It develops that sense of independence, it builds that, and it also builds that confidence.

“It’s been great for him, but it’s great for all kids.”

All-League teams

The end of the spring sports year brings with it cascades of all-league teams.

We’ve done our best to compile most of them in today’s paper, although we’re still missing a few that have yet to be completed.

Among the highlights:

■ Sequim’s Lea Hopson earning the Olympic League softball MVP for the second year in a row.

■ Chimacum ace/slugger Landon Cray earning the Class 1A Nisqually League MVP for the third straight year.

■ Port Angeles and Sequim (rightfully) accounting for nine of 19 first-team spots on the All-Olympic League softball team.

■ Chimacum getting seven of 19 first-team spots on the All-1A Nisqually League baseball team.

■ Two area coaches — Chimacum baseball’s Jim Dunn and Port Angeles softball’s Buddy Bear — getting league coach of the year recognition.

■ Forks senior softball player Whitney Fairbanks getting first-team All-Evergreen Division honors for Spartans.

She was the lone Forks softball or baseball player to receive such an honor.

■ Biggest omission: Port Angeles soccer coach Chris Saari not getting Olympic League coach of the year honors after the Riders doubled their win total from a year ago (five to 10) and ended a nine-year playoff drought.

________

Matt Schubert is the outdoors and sports columnist for the Peninsula Daily News. His column regularly appears on Thursdays and Fridays. He can be reached at matt.schubert@peninsuladailynews.com.

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