Record Numbers Out For Harlem Wrestlers
November 29, 2023
The Harlem Wildcat and Ladycat wresting teams boast record impressive numbers for the 2023-24 season. All told, the teams have 41 student athletes ready to compete, 28 boys and 14 girls. Head Coach John Baker will once again lead the program. Assisting him will be Lyle Faulkinberry, William BlackCrow and John Stiffarm. The teams began practice on Thursday, November 16 and have been working hard in preparation for the season opener in Cascade December 1-2.
Baker gets pretty excited when asked to talk about the upcoming season and that energy that carries is what has led to such a large team for both the boys’ and girls’ team “The Ladycat wrestling team returns senior Kaitlyn Johnson, juniors Izzy Baker, Ihte` Stiffarm, and Svea Hogan, and sophomore Cyla Adams. These girls were major contributors to the 2nd place Divisional Team title, but they also lit a fire in other female athletes to join and be a part of something special.”
Baker talks about the success last year’s team achieved, “Johnson finished 6th place at 126lbs last year at the state tournament and with graduate Amelia BlackCrow, who took 4th place at 165lbs. Both of those finishes had quite an impact on our community because this year the team grew to 15 female athletes.”
Baker is happy to see growth in the girls’ program, “whether they are seasoned veterans of the sport or brand new, the program remains the same, we are starting with the basics. The girls seem to focus very hard on the basic takedowns and pinning combinations long before they show any interest in the razzle-dazzle.”
The experience on the girls’ side of the wrestling room includes even more state tournament experience: “My returning state team from last year, Kaitlyn Johnson, Izzy Baker, Cyla Adams, Svea Hogan, and Ihte` Stiffarm. Johnson fills the role of senior captain this year. She has already made weight and is super focused in practice. She is taking the position of captain very seriously and is encouraging to the new wrestlers.
Izzy Baker, also in the role of junior captain, has come back to the room with good energy and loves the extra interest in her favorite sport,” said Baker.
The added depth to the Ladycat roster brings loftier goals, “My expectation for the girls is very straight forward, train hard, compete hard, be a leader on the mat and in the classroom, no regrets! They work hard and seem to be having fun. We have got to pursue that mental toughness and make something out of it. It should be another record-breaking year for the Ladycat wrestlers.”
The boys’ roster includes elevated numbers as well, “Growth happened on the boy’s side as well, 26 boys have joined the team. Most of the boys found a new hobby during the season last year, working out! The boys have come in this year with energy and the will to be standouts. My entire roster, minus 1 senior has returned.”
Success begins with maximum effort in the wrestling room, “Practices are hard and long, but not a single wrestler on the boy’s side that started has quit. Basic Training is underway with boys as well and they are working super hard. Hungry to match the momentum of the girls’ team and looking to make their own marks. A few standouts for the boys this year is senior captain Leon Champagne, he qualified for state last year, but fell short of placing and senior captain Kendon Young who went through Army basic training this summer is in great shape and ready to rumble. Baker has a strong group of underclassmen as well, “junior captain Trent King has been working since last year in the weight room and on his mental strength, could have an exciting year. State contender Kiiw Windy Boy has also returned and is working very hard as well to make his mark this year again.”
The wrestling room is very much alive and well. We have a great group of kids with great attitudes and making positive decisions to be part of something that can change their lives. So many times we hear the negatives of this world, so it is pretty impressive to see this many kids going through voluntary rigorous training and keeping their grades up simultaneously. I am humbled by their efforts and will do my best to teach them wrestling and how to be good humans! Harlem Wrestling is alive and well. These kids are hungry for the season to begin with the Cascade Invitational December 1-2.”