Juanita wrestlers work out on a recent afternoon. Andy Nystrom/ staff photo

Juanita wrestlers work out on a recent afternoon. Andy Nystrom/ staff photo

Enjoying the grit and grind of the wrestling scene

Juanita Rebels thrive on hard work.

When Juanita junior Braden McNeff steps onto the wrestling mat, he feels that nothing’s impossible. Put your mind fully into the match and you can achieve anything.

McNeff said that he thrives on challenges and would rather succeed at something arduous than have something simple placed in front of him. The 132-pounder sported a 12-7 record for head coach Kevin Corbett’s Rebels, who were 5-0 in league and 10-4 overall at press time.

Things are looking good thus far, but McNeff said he has room for improvement and he’s toiling away in the wrestling room to make that happen.

On gravitating toward wrestling as opposed to other sports, McNeff said: “One, I suck playing with a ball, so it’s nice to finally have a sport where I can just wrestle and use my hands, and also just the grit, the grind.”

Junior Leon Kawahara had an 18-5 record in his possession in 138- and 145-pound matches at press time.

With a background in boxing and kickboxing, the wrestling room was a magnet for Kawahara. He gives it his all each day and is always seeking improvement.

“I look for the best guy in the room and I practice with him. After, I go in the weight room and work out some more, and then I go run — always go the extra mile,” he said. “I like that it’s one on one and you can really show everyone what you’re capable of.”

With a laugh, Kawahara noted that he enjoys hanging around wrestlers, whom he said are funny, cool, quirky and strange.

Sophomore Andrew Doughty smiles at that comment as he steps into the interview spotlight.

As a freshman, he qualified for state and notched one victory at 152 pounds, which is where he’s wrestling now after grappling up at 170 for a while.

After often wrestling with his dad around the house, Doughty took up the sport in sixth grade. His transition from the living room to the wrestling room was tough, and he decided to change his game plan going forward. At the end of his first season, he was tired of getting pinned and started to fight harder and with more heart.

The Rebel wrestlers have battled together and supported each other this season.

“There’s something about going hard and working and knowing that you are feeling the pain together, that brings you closer together,” he said.


In consideration of how we voice our opinions in the modern world, we’ve closed comments on our websites. We value the opinions of our readers and we encourage you to keep the conversation going.

Please feel free to share your story tips by emailing editor@kirklandreporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.kirklandreporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) We reserve the right to edit letters, but if you keep yours to 300 words or less, we won’t ask you to shorten it.

More in Sports

Juanita’s Ashley Schroeder notches a dig during her squad’s 3-0 volleyball loss to Bellevue on Sept. 20. Photo courtesy of Stephanie Ault Justus
Digging away for Juanita

Juanita’s Ashley Schroeder notches a dig during her squad’s 3-0 volleyball loss… Continue reading

Photo courtesy of Panthers Youth Rugby
Panthers Youth Rugby rolls into action

Panthers Youth Rugby is encouraging boys and girls in middle school and… Continue reading

A Decatur High School student in Federal Way participates in a conditioning workout in Feb. 2021 as the state eased back in to in-person activities. Olivia Sullivan/Sound Publishing
State announces mask requirements for student sports, performing arts

Athletes are not required to wear masks when participating in sports of any contact level while outside.

Screenshot of video obtained by Redmond police shows Richard Sherman trying to break into the Redmond home of his in-laws.
Former Seattle Seahawks player Richard Sherman charged with five misdemeanors in King County

Charges were filed following an incident at home of Sherman’s in-laws in Redmond.

Screenshot
Redmond Police arrest former Seattle Seahawk Richard Sherman

Redmond Police allege former Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman crashed into a… Continue reading

Snoqualmie Casino unveiled the first immersive Seahawks-branded table game experience Sept. 18, 2020, in a ribbon cutting dedication with Snoqualmie Tribe Council members and Snoqualmie Casino executives. Courtesy photo
Gambling Commission OKs pacts with tribes for sports betting

Agreements with 15 tribes await approval by the governor and the feds.

Kentwood High football. FILE PHOTO
WIAA Executive Board revises Season 1 sports in response to state guidelines

Practices scheduled to begin Feb. 1 for football, volleyball, soccer and 5 other sports

The Mercer Island boys basketball celebrates their 61-36 victory over Interlake in the 3A KingCo championship game on Feb. 11, 2020, at Sammamish High School. File photo
WIAA pushes back return to play for prep sports

Season 2 now begins Feb. 1 and seasons have been shortened to seven weeks each.

In this file photo from March 2020, the Federal Way High School boys basketball team reacts in the final minutes of the state quarterfinals game against Mt. Si High School. File photo
New guidelines released for return of prep sports in WA

The new plan places counties and sports in three-tier systems. No signs of a quicker return to play.

Doctor IDs safety measures for youth team sports practices
Doctor IDs safety measures for youth team sports practices

Before practice begins, parents must understand COVID-19 protective protocols

Pictured: A Mercer Island High School swimmer competes in fall 2019. Washington Interscholastic Activities Association recently announced the girls swim and dive season will be moved to “Season 3,” which begins March 1. File photo
WIAA gives schools option to delay start of prep sports until December

An updated plan moves girls swimming to Season 3 and makes fall cross country an alternate season.

The Todd Beamer Titans football team in Federal Way during a 2019 summer practice. File photo
WIAA modifies prep sports calendar; football moved to spring

Washington’s high school athletics governing body announced its revised plans for the… Continue reading