By Kevin Anthony, Tri-City HeraldFebruary 16, 2012 

As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.

-- Proverbs 27:17

For most people, wrestling and religion are more like corndogs and pudding than peanut butter and chocolate: They all taste great, but only one combination tastes great together.

But that saying from The Good Book -- the spirit of it -- is what the Hanford wrestling coaches have preached to their grappling flock all season through the daily grind of the wrestling room.

Turned out to be prophetic.

The Falcons are sending four wrestlers to Tacoma this week to compete in Mat Classic XXIV, the state's six-in-one championship gathering at the grappling mecca known as the Tacoma Dome.

All four wrestlers -- seniors Joe Traverso, Casey Enderlin and Ben Tynan, and sophomore Will Bishop -- are within two weight classes of one another, from Traverso at 170 pounds up to Bishop at 195.

They have wrestled in and around the same weights as one another, waging a seasonlong campaign in the Falcons' wrestling room.

"We knew coming in, we were really good in the upper weights," said Enderlin, a district champion and regional runner-up who wrestles at 182 pounds along with Tynan. "We mostly just beat each other up."

There have been some scraps along the way -- brothers in arms turning into brothers in armbars.

"This summer, Tynan and Enderlin almost got in a fistfight in camp," Hanford coach Dom Duncan said. "Other coaches were like, 'You guys have that in your room every day?' "

Tynan and Traverso also came close to blows during the season. But 30 minutes later, it was all good over lunch.

But that heated competition among teammates has honed each wrestler into a state competitor.

"When you're going up against a pretty good wrestler, when you wrestle him, you get better," Bishop summed up.

But it's not just four guys bangin' heads on a daily basis -- they all bring something different to the table.

Enderlin is the power guy, while Tynan's the speed guy who started out as a 112-pounder as a freshman. Bishop is a big-time athlete who has what his teammates described as a "funky" style. And Traverso is the bulldog.

"He is constantly coming at you," Enderlin said. "You don't get a break. It's attack, attack, attack."

That style comes from what was shaping up to be a strong junior season but ended prematurely. Traverso qualified for state as a sophomore -- he went 0-2, but that's not unheard of for a young 160-pounder.

The next season, he started every match slowly before coming on in the second and third rounds. That was good enough for the regular season, but he wound up third at districts and fifth at regionals -- missing out on a return to state.

So now, "I run all three (periods) hard," Traverso said. "I start out hard, and I keep going hard. There is no reason I can't go all three rounds, all 6 minutes, or 7 minutes or 9 minutes."

None of the four Falcons brings a super-shiny record to state this week -- Traverso is 29-9, Bishop 25-8, Enderlin 31-8 and Tynan 22-8 -- but that is the result of a strong schedule that included tournament dates with some of the best on the west side and Spokane.

All four have their work cut out for them this weekend, as well. Enderlin is the only one to reach the regional finals and enters as a No. 2 seed. He has a quality opener against senior Evan Dorsey of Bonney Lake but could reach the semifinals without having to face a state veteran.

Tynan, in the same side of the bracket, is a third seed and opens against one state vet -- Timberline senior Tyler Saichompoo -- and likely would have to get by returning placer Sean Elledge of Glacier Peak in the quarterfinal.

Traverso is in a similar boat, with state veteran Rowland Gaydosh of Decatur in the first round. If Traverso wins, he likely would match up against state runner-up Connor Boyce of Everett.

Bishop, like Tynan and Traverso a three seed, opens with another state rookie but likely will have to get by two-time placer and returning runner-up Peter Johnson of Bishop Blanchet to reach the semis.

All four wrestlers have different expectations.

"I'm not thinking about wanting to go to the finals," Enderlin said. "I don't know what to expect. But I think we can place top 10" as a team.

"I just try to take it one match at a time," Bishop said. "In a big environment like this, I take it as a challenge. Wherever I wrestle, I may beat my guy or I may get beat, but I don't expect to lose to anyone."

Said Tynan: "I'm looking for the medal. I want to get up on that podium, get up and place."

Traverso, meanwhile, said it's state title or bust.

"I'll just tell you right now, I am not going to settle for anything less than first," he said. "If I don't make the finals, it's not going to be a good time for me."

Hard words and hard expectations. This weekend will show whether he and his teammates have the iron will to back them up.

w Kevin Anthony: 582-1403;

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