Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News Port Angeles High School wrestling coach Rob Gale stretches with his team during a practice on Wednesday.

Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News Port Angeles High School wrestling coach Rob Gale stretches with his team during a practice on Wednesday.

WRESTLING PREVIEW: Port Angeles grapplers have a new head coach

PORT ANGELES — New Port Angeles wrestling head coach Rob Gale has hit the mat running in an effort to reach goals ranging from the big picture — the future installation of large wall mats inside the team’s wrestling room — to the small but substantial — new headgear for the green and white, emblazoned with the school’s logo.

“We’ve been doing a lot of fundraisers, and I’m thankful to the Port Angeles business community as we’ve made more money this year with PA businesses than we’ve ever had, close to $5,000,” Gale said.

“Every new coach wants to come in with something cool, so with our headgear, we’ve never had our logo on our headgear. And we purchased some nice Port Angeles Wrestling backpacks and some new singlets.”

Down the road, Gale wants to improve the feel of the Roughriders wrestling room, adding team-logo emblazoned panel mats.

“My goal is to get wall mats that come up high and really make our wrestling room look like a college wrestling room you’d see at big-time programs. When people come through the door I want them to know this is Port Angeles Wrestling.”

Gale is no stranger to the program or to many of its athletes, having coached at the youth and middle school level for years. He’s been a Roughriders assistant at the high school for the past five years, three with former Port Angeles coach Erik Gonzalez, and the last two with Brent Wasche, now back coaching in his native Texas.

“I learned through the years I was with him,” Gale said of coaching with Gonzalez.

“The biggest thing, how to build the program and that starts from establishing a successful kids program.”

Gale took over the Port Angeles Wrestling Club and said there’s been a turnout of 80 kids in grades K-eight so far this season.

Besides coaching alongside a sure-fire future Washington State Wrestling Coaches Association Hall of Famer in Gonzalez, Gale grew up in Forks wrestling for 2015 inductee, longtime Spartans coach Bob Wheeler at the youth and high school level.

Gale wrestled in the very first Mat Classic as a sophomore, just days after he asked a Spartans wrestling statkeeper out on a date. That statkeeper turned into his wife Cheri, whom Gale praised for her help as he learns the ropes of being a high school head coach.

Gale finished second in state his senior year, earning the opportunity to wrestle in Japan as part of a state delegation headed up by Wheeler, who was voted state coach of the year in 1991.

“It was probably one of the best things I’ve ever did,” Gale said of the trip. “To get to see that different lifestyle. We got to live with other wrestlers and it was pretty cool. I was a picky eater.

“Bob had to babysit the team, I don’t think he ever wanted to do that ever again.”

This year, Gale has tapped former Idaho State University wrestler Chris Myers as an assistant, and also will be aided by Port Angeles graduates and former wrestling standouts in brothers Brian and Nathan Cristion.

Gale has already helped out his former coach, scheduling a nonleague home match in Forks on Jan. 23, the Spartans’ lone home match of the season.

He also said the Riders have 10 girls wrestlers on the squad, the most he’s seen in his time with the program.

Port Angeles Wrestling

 Head Coach: Rob Gale (1st season)

 Mat Classic Returners: Bailey White (220 pounds)

 Counting On: Riley Gale (160-170); Kenny Soule (145-152); Daniel Basden (120);

 Newcomers: Andrew St. George (126); Carson Jackson (160-170).

 Outlook: “We are going to surprise some folks and I really think we can win the league championship,” Gale said. “Our goal is to beat Sequim, I always have to say that. They’ve gotten us the past two years. My goal is to win the thing and send six to eight kids to compete at the state tournament. We’re going to be a good dual team,

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