The Bellevue sports blog
A post-Goncharoff Bellevue, a blind marathon runner and a new perspective on toughness | From the SidelinesFebruary 23rd, 2012 at Thu, 23rd, 2012 at 5:47 pm by Josh Suman
The theme in the major sports market lately in Seattle has been change and I’ll have a column with some thoughts on that coming out Sunday. My hope is to develop a more regular schedule for releasing sports and recreation stories online and the blog and column are obviously one piece of that.
Thursday is my target day for an in-depth, weekly blog post that goes behind the scenes of the previous week’s work and this week, I try and provide an inside look at the Butch Goncharoff to Orange Lutheran madness and Joseph Raineri, a blind athlete living in Robinswood.
Even closer to home, one major change on the prep coaching scene threatened to shake up not only the KingCo gridiron but the balance of power in the entire state. Reports have since surfaced that Goncharoff will remain with the Wolverines, but the very idea of him taking off for Southern California or anywhere else for that matter was no doubt an intriguing one. I spoke with one local coach and also a reporter from the Orange County Register to get some thoughts on the post-Goncharoff scene in KingCo and the sort of environment he would be stepping into in the famed Trinity League.
The coach was Juanita’s Shaun Tarantola, who finished his fourth season at the helm for the Rebels in 2011. His first point was one that coaches routinely make when asked about the success of the Wolverines:
“Playing against a top team within the conference makes your own program better. Every league has a team that is seen as the gold standard, it just so happens in 3A KingCo that team is also one of a handful that sets the bar state-wide.
“They have raised the bar about what it takes to be a successful high school football program,” Tarantola added. “Just by competing with them year in and year out it really pushes teams to raise their level to be able to compete with a team like Bellevue.”
The most obvious thing folks were left wondering when news broke that Goncharoff was talking with Orange Lutheran was what would be left of the Wolverines after he was gone? James Hasty will not be back after his son Tyler’s graduation and incumbent defensive coordinator Danny Razore took a position with the University of Washington program. Longtime local prep coach Pat Jones, who was with Sammamish during their state title game run and also has a son in the program, would have seemed the logical choice to me, but obviously there are more complexities that go into a hiring process even at the high school level.
Tarantola, for one, believes building a strong system of coaches to support the head man is the key to any program’s success.
“The next key for me is hiring great people around me,” he said. “If every kid that comes around our pogrom is around great people, I think good things happen.”
Steve Fryer, who has been covering preps in Orange County full-time for 22 years for the Register, was the other person I spoke with in an attempt to get a feel for the dynamics of the Lancers’ program, school enthusiasm for football and general culture around the famed Trinity League.
Fryer had quite a lot to say about a league that has produced Heisman Trophy winners, multiple First Round NFL selections and too many Division I prospects to even begin to count just in recent years but one of the most interesting points he made was regarding salary. People around Wash. will no doubt wear-out the “I wonder how much Bellevue ponied up to keep him…” line, which is in some ways ironic because that is something he never would have had to deal with in the Trinity, where Fryer said six-figure, privately funded salaries are the norm for prep football coaches.
“Pretty much everyone gets six figures,” Fryer said. “Football sets the tone for school sprit for the whole year. These private schools have big alumni associations that write big checks and the more you win the more likely you are to get those checks.”
I wondered if people in Orange County were even aware of Bellevue or Goncharoff, but Fryer assured me they were indeed.
“We know the pedigree,” he said. “About ending De La Salle’s streak, the nine titles…”
But he was quick to point out that few in the region believe the Wing-T could succeed on the pass-heavy SoCal scene.
“He runs the Wing-T offense and nobody believes the Wing-T could succeed here. Even the guy here, Myron Miller at Tuston (not a member of the Trinity), they had five guys in the NFL this year. He runs the Double-Wing. He goes, ‘yeah, but he runs the Wing-T.”
All of that is a moot point now that we know Goncharoff is staying in Bellevue, but the idea of one of Washington’s finest having success in one of the biggest prep football markets in the country is enticing and in some ways could have been great for Washington’s national and regional reputation.
For what it’s worth (not much last I checked), I do think Goncharoff would have been successful with the Lancers and it should be obvious to everyone that any coach with a winning percentage like he has might be able to make a couple adjustments based on personnel and opposition…
State playoffs are finished for all winter sports except boys and girls basketball and the Mat Classic and swim and dive championships took place last weekend.
Swim and dive netted far more individual and team success than wrestling, but much of that was predicted early on in the season. For that reason and other logistical concerns, I spent a day in the Tacoma Dome rather than King County Aquatic Center.
While only a handful of wrestlers advanced to the second day and earned a place on the podium, the scale of the event, the nature of the double-elimination bracket and the intensity of the sport left me with even more respect for wrestlers, their coaches and the rest of the people associated with them.
Case-in-point is Eastside Catholic senior Joe Stoutt.
Making his second appearance at state, Stoutt was pinned in the first round of Mat Classic XXIV after placing second in the previous week’s regional tournament. The loss immediately sent him to the loser’s bracket and erased any hope of a title match appearance, all less than two minutes after his tournament began.
Countless basketball teams have gone by the wayside in the consolation bracket after an unexpected first round loss and it will surely happen to at least a few teams next week as well. But the very nature of wrestling doesn’t really leave that as an option.
No one is trying to shoot a three over you to prove a point in wrestling. They’re trying to pin your arms behind your back and push your face into the mat.
Watching as guys like Stoutt, Iwicki and others fought back through the consolation bracket of the tournament with the same intensity as if they were wrestling for a state title was just another reminder of the many unique aspects to the sport and the type of mindset that is required to step onto the mat knowing the only thing stopping the other person from owning you is, well, you.
Perhaps the gutsiest performance of all was turned in by Eastlake’s Eric Harper, wrestling at 170 pounds in the 4A bracket.
After winning his way to the semi-finals, the junior hurt a shoulder and was forced to take an injury defeat.
Rather than leaving for a more thorough examination, Harper elected to continue wrestling even though he was in the consolation bracket even though his arm as he put it, “just went limp” when he was injured.
“I had nothing to lose, it was the last tournament of the year,” Harper said. “I wanted a chance to wrestle for third.”
Nothing to lose, of course, except the complete function of his arm.
If that doesn’t spell out the mindset these guys take when they go to the mat, then nothing can. It’s always important as a sports writer to leave the war-related metaphors on the cutting room floor when young men and women are actually fighting wars in the name of our livelihood.
But with that being said, there is no denying the Spartan qualities of the sport and those involved.
Aside from the Goncharoff situation and state playoff items, I ran a feature on a Robinswood man who has dealt with Retinitis Pigmentosa for his entire life and is now blind. Each of his three brothers also suffers from the genetic eye disease.
His name is Joseph Raineri and his connection to sports is a fitness class he has taught on Mercer Island for the past several years, initially through the Parks and Recreation Department and now independently at Emanuel Church.
Despite his increasing blindness, Raineri has ran marathons, been a world class skier, competed in triathlons and still works out for a couple hours each day, not including the three-times weekly 6 a.m. fitness class.
“I made the connection between physical fitness and mental fitness,” he said. “I just really like to run.”
The emotional and psychological aspects of physical activity have been enough to trump the difficulties Raineri faces as a blind athlete and hearing him talk about the importance of working out was humbling and inspiring.
“One thing for certain about physical fitness, no matter how you start out your workout, I don’t care how you’re feeling, you’re always going to feel better when you’re done,” he said. “You dont have to run a marathon or do the Iron Man. 20 or 30 minutes walking or jogging you’re always going to feel better when that’s done.”
The blindness is to the point where Raineri takes help for working out more often than he used to and is far more cautious, but speaking with him made me realize some of the basic daily tasks I take for granted. Even as a person with complete sight I am clumsy and find myself on the lookout for pointed objects and breakables. For Raineri that takes on an entirely different face and hearing how he was able to see the good in such a tough situation spoke volumes about his character.
“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve leaned over into the edge or corner of a desk, I’ve got to be careful,” he said. “When I go out in the bright sunlight I have to wear sunglasses because of the glare. One of the benefits if there is such a thing is I get free information calls. I can call 411 and not get charged.”