Better than advertised

When Chris Hogan and Bobby Arendsee met each other in the finals of the 140-pound weight class at last week’s Class 4A sub-regional wrestling tournament, they couldn’t help but share a laugh.

The situation the two South Kitsap teammates found themselves in deserved a bit of a giggle since just three months earlier no one, not even the two of them, could have ever seen this coming.

“It was kind of funny because at the beginning of the year, I couldn’t have projected where they would finish in this last tournament,” co-coach Chad Nass said. “They have both exceeded the expectations we had set for them at the beginning of the year.

“But as the season went on,“ Nass continued, “those two were the guys who were as committed to wrestling as anyone. As the season went on, what they did this weekend didn’t surprise me.”

Saturday’s match saw the new guard take over at that weight class as both Hogan and Arendsee will vie for a spot at the state tournament today as the Class 4A District III Regional Tournament concludes at Foss High School in Tacoma.

The top four placers in each weight class will advance to next weekend’s Mat Classic at the Tacoma Dome.

And having Hogan and Arendsee in this position deserves a laugh or two since it wasn’t supposed to happen. 

When the South Kitsap wrestling team gathered on Nov. 15 for the first day of practice, a few things were certain: Senior Kyle Coppinger was the king of the 140-pounders and would most definitely make a return trip to the Mat Classic with a state title in sight; Hogan, a junior, would be counted on to make a strong showing at the regional tournament at 152 pounds; and Arendsee would fight through his sophomore year, learning all he could.

Oh, how things changed.

When Coppinger broke his hand at the year’s first tournament, the team was thrown for a loop that Hogan and Arendsee would slowly, but surely, take care of.

“When Kyle went down it was like, ‘Geez, what are we going to do?’ ” Nass said.

But he and co-coach Dave Dyess quickly found out they would have to a find time for both of them. And the two made the most of their time.

Arendsee never expected to see much varsity time this year. He was focused in on getting in shape and working on technique.

“That was the plan at the beginning of the year,” Arendsee said. “When (Kyle) got hurt, I was scared I was going to get whopped and thrashed all over the place. But with the experience of facing all the varsity wrestlers, I just got better and better. I started getting wins out of nowhere and they just started adding up.”

Hogan began the year at 152 pounds and through conditioning dropped down to 145. When Arendsee was forced out of the lineup for a few weeks with an injury, Hogan took his spot at 140 pounds. He never left, and the two began trading off in the slot at different tournaments.

“Last year I got to regionals and that was my goal,“ Hogan said. “This year, my goal is to get to state. I thought I was going to do it at 145 ... I felt like I had a better chance at 140. It’s a better weight class for me.“

Getting the pair enough matches at the same weight was difficult at best, and neither racked up a real impressive record. But they both got better as the season moved on and their confidence grew.

“I’m always confident before I go out there,” Arendsee said. “I just feel it’s already over before I even step on the mat. I just have to show up and do what I do and I’ll win.”

The style of thinking got even better when the word came down that Coppinger would not return and the 140-pound class was theirs.

“They’re both smart enough to know that when Kyle did come back, it would create a situation where one of them would not be there,” Nass said. “When they found out that Kyle wasn’t coming back, it just lifted a big weight, a burden, in that they both knew they could stay here. It provided an opportunity that they could both capitalize on and that’s exactly what they did.”

So much so that they were the only teammates to face each other in any of the 14 weight classes at the sub-regional, marking one of the few times the two have actually wrestled each other.

They purposely stay away from each other in practice, both opting to work with someone at a higher weight. So when they met, the outcome was up in the air.

“I didn’t know who was going to win Saturday,“ Nass said. “I had no idea because they hadn’t challenged before. I had no idea who was going to win. And that’s how I look at them — you can’t count either one of them out.

“They are just both so unbelievable at how mentally tough they are,” Nass said. “And as they progressed ... their wrestling has picked up and matched how tough they are mentally.”

Both Hogan and Arendsee said they entered the match with the same outlook — have fun but get after each other.

And they did.

“Before the match, I was nervous,” Arendsee said. “But when I stepped on there, I actually had to stop myself from laughing.”

“We were going as hard as we could,“ Hogan said. “We wanted to win - both of us wanted to win. But it was fun. It was hard not to smile because we were having fun. We knew that whichever way it came out, a South guy was on top.”

On that day, Hogan ended up winning by decision.

But don’t be surprised to see a repeat performance. Both said they planned on meeting each other in the finals last weekend and they wouldn’t be shocked if it happens again.

“Once again, I don’t know who would win,” Nass said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if they both (advance to state). I wouldn’t be surprised if they went one-two.”

Stranger things have happened.

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