There is nothing like building a brotherly bond on a glossy kitchen floor.
Thirsting for wrestling knowledge, one of Nick Whitehead’s perks growing up was getting to spar with his older brother, Tim, at home. The older Whitehead liked to experiment with creative moves and body positioning, and Nick happily obliged as the proverbial guinea pig.
“We were always on the kitchen floor,” Nick Whitehead said. “Went from the carpet (of the living room) to the linoleum.”
So when Nick Whitehead sat in the upper stands at Mat Classic in the Tacoma Dome and watched his brother lose twice in the finals of 4A state championship for Tahoma High School, it hurt. And it inspired him.
“It was hard watching him go through that,” Nick Whitehead said. “But I want to do better than him.”
Only a sophomore, this Whitehead certainly figures to get a state title shot in the future, possibly as soon as February at Mat Classic XVII.
“We’ve known him since he was a little boy coming through our (club) programs,” Tahoma coach Chris Feist said. “His older brother was a two-time finalist for us, and Nick is following a similar path — only he is performing at a higher level at a younger age.
“He is a pretty special kid, not just because he wins, but his attention to detail and his effort.”
Whitehead was an eighth grader when he watched his older brother lose to Pasco’s Timmy Martinez, 4-2, in the 118 state finals as a senior in 2013.
Last season, Whitehead came on the scene and was one of three Bears ninth graders to place at the state meet, finishing fifth at 113.
The odd thing about this state-contending Tahoma team is that its core group in 2015 is made up of wrestlers such as Whitehead, Justin Sipila and Dylan Weiding, who will be leading the charge for three years.
“I’ve felt like I had to step up as a leader, because we don’t have many seniors or juniors,” Whitehead said. “And it is easier to listen to someone like me when I am a state placer.”
Whitehead isn’t the vocal or flashy type. Rarely will you hear his voice boom throughout a gymnasium. He would rather just show his teammates how to get it done.
Even if that means showing up in a lot of pain.
The day before the Bears left for the prestigious Tri-State Tournament at North Idaho College in late December, Whitehead’s head wasn’t feeling right. He visited a doctor and was told he had a double ear infection.
He was also a few pounds too heavy for the 120 weight class, so if he was going to wrestle, he needed to run beforehand.
“I was running,” he said, “and I was feeling these sharp pains in my ear.”
Whitehead, who could have easily bowed out but he competed, advanced to the Tri-State semifinals before losing to touted Lakeside of Nine Mile Falls standout Dalton Young, 6-3. Young went on to win his second career tournament championship.
“He never once complained,” Feist said.
Coming off a win at the all-South Puget Sound League tournament last weekend at Auburn High School, Whitehead figures to rack up a few more titles the rest of the way. One of them will hopefully come at Mat Classic.
“I am feeling better, and a lot more ready for state,” Whitehead said. “I feel like I can go and do it.”