Redmond High wrestlers bring mental and physical toughness to the mat

Jeremy Hernandez literally bolted right off the football field and into the wrestling room.

The Redmond High junior rusher had a stellar season for the Mustangs on the gridiron and now he wants to make an impact again on the grappling mat. Last year, he took fourth at 145 pounds in the 3A division at the state Mat Classic XXIX at the Tacoma Dome.

Coach Robert Kaneko said Hernandez is stronger than ever and has the most uncanny hip control of any wrestler he’s witnessed. Currently, Hernandez is ranked second at 145 in 3A by the Washington Wrestling Report. (He’s at 152 now and trimming back to 145, Kaneko said.)

Hernandez was 4-0 at press time and is brimming with confidence about what awaits him on the mat this season.

“I’m really looking forward to keep everything consistent, believing in my technique and myself that I can (succeed),” he said, adding his football activity into the equation: “Getting a lot of yardage, really carrying the ball a lot, I proved to myself that in the moments where I’m anxious or really nervous, if I just zone into my technique and my training, it will all take care of itself.”

It’s about going all out and having no regrets, he added.

Last year, the Redmond boys won the 3A KingCo tournament and the girls won the sub-regional. The Mustangs graduated 12 seniors and have five seniors on this year’s squad, which had a stellar last Thursday-Friday with a league win over Mercer Island; four girls winning titles at a Foss tournament; and a sweep at a triple dual over Franklin Pierce, Eatonville and Mount Tahoma.

Sophomore Molly Williams was one of those Foss champs at 115 along with Leah Hiatt at 115 (the teammates were in different pools), Julie Medina at 140 and Shannon Curran at 105.

Last year, Williams — who wrestled at 105 — notched seventh at state and was joined on the girls’ side at the Dome by Hiatt (105) and alternate Kim Alaniz (110).

As soon as state was finished last year, Williams began freestyling and then started lifting weights last spring. Kaneko said she’s added muscle and technique and is on target for big results this season.

“I was super excited for wrestling season this year ‘cause I knew what the whole season’s like,” said Williams, who was 6-2 combined against girls and boys at press time. The Mustang added that she had to rise up to the challenge at state last year, and knows that her training will be vital to make an impact again this time out.

“This year, I think I’ve gotta work on my feet and be able to finish shots quicker,” she said, noting that wrestling boys in beneficial. “So, getting beat up by the guys is not fun, but it will be the best thing that will help prepare me.”

If she works hard and stays mentally tough during practice, then everything will pay off come competition time, Williams said.

Hiatt also competed at state as a freshman last season and started out strong with a 6-1 record this year at press time.

“We’ve been working hard and I’m sure we’re gonna be sending a lot of people to state this year. That would be awesome,” said the judo player, who branched out from that sport into wrestling last year.

She thrives on the team togetherness and support from the coaching staff.

When it’s time to square off with her opponents on the mat, she’s ready to go.

“It’s mostly adrenaline and excitement, but sometimes fear, but I know the team’s always there for us, so it’s all good,” she said with a smile.

Another top returner is Carson Lui, a sophomore 160-pounder, who Kaneko said is fast and strong — a natural athlete. He was 7-1 at press time.

“I definitely feel like I learned a lot from my experiences last year, a lot of good technique from the coaches and I feel pretty confident about this season,” he said.

Lui enjoys the intensity of the matches — that’s what makes the sport fun. When the matches start, the crowd noise dissipates in his mind and he’s all set.

“You do what you feel is right, it just works,” he said.