Gig Harbor High junior John Bittinger won the Class 3A South Sound Conference wrestling title in the 152-pound weight class over the weekend against Peninsula’s Isaac Casey.
“It feels pretty good,” Bittinger said.
Bittinger held off a late charge from Casey to claim the league’s top spot and a trip to regionals. On the year, Bittinger has compiled a 20-6 record.
“My confidence has grown this year, definitely,” Bittinger said. “Last year, I didn’t really commit to my performance. My moves, I didn’t commit to them as much. I know a lot more now. My conditioning, the shape I’m in, it’s just a lot better than last year.”
Bittinger worked out in the offseason more than in years past. Even now, he exercises in the mornings on most days, either getting to the wrestling mat before school starts or running the stairs near Anthony’s restaurant in downtown Gig Harbor.
Wait ... running stairs in the early hour in the middle of winter? That takes some dedication.
“I have to wear like two or three layers of clothing,” Bittinger said with a laugh. “It’s cold.”
But his hard work has paid off for Gig Harbor, and Bittinger has improved under first-year coach Jacob Spadoni.
“(Spadoni) challenges me a lot,” Bittinger said. “He makes want to be more competitive. And Jake (Baker), the assistant coach, is a big help on inspiration and getting us pumped up. Before league, he gathered the whole team up and we performed our best. It was great.”
Bittinger went to the Class 4A state meet last season but didn’t place.
“My goal is to perform a lot better than I did last year,” Bittinger said. “I think I deserve it. I’ve been working a lot harder. I’ve been more focused. I want to place in the top three.”
Last year was a learning experience for Bittinger.
“I learned that I can’t let the big lights and those wrestlers get me off track,” he said. “I’ve got to put that off to the side and just focus on strategy.”
His game plan for the postseason? Ramp up the intensity.
“I need to hustle harder, bring up the intensity, be more aggressive and wrestle smarter, not harder all the time,” Bittinger said. “Some guys that are kind of sneaky. I won’t be caught in any bad positions.”
Elsewhere, Zayne Ball won the league title in the 160-pound weight class and Zach Batanian took fourth in 182. Both will advance to regionals.