Resurrection of the Wrestling Rhinos

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Thomas Rhodes (top) wrestling for the Rhinos at the
Washington State Folkstyle Championship Tournament, February 2014.
Photo by Donald Rhodes

If you stop by Einstein Middle School on Tuesday or Thursday evenings this winter, you may see a group of boys (and a few girls) grappling on foam mats. There are also a few adult volunteer coaches pacing the room and correcting their technique.

Although this may seem like a strange scene to some, it’s just another practice for the Wrestling Rhinos, a youth wrestling club serving Shoreline area youth ages 5-18. The club functions as a feeder program for high school wrestling programs throughout the Shoreline area such as Shorewood, Shorecrest, Mountlake Terrace, Edmonds Woodway, Lynnwood, and several others.

During the 1990’s the Wrestling Rhinos were one of the largest and most successful youth wrestling clubs in the state of Washington. The Rhinos have bragging rights to training High School Wrestling State Champions as far back as 1974. The strongest years of the club were from 1981-1994, when for almost 13 consecutive years, a Rhino was a High school State Wrestling Champion.

Matt Floresca - State Champion Wrestler, 3A division.
Shorewood High School, 2014.
Trained with the Rhinos for 10 years.
Photo by Michael Floresca

The club can even claim that a couple of MMA/UFC fighters and celebrities such as Randy Couture and Josh Barnett were in the Rhino wrestling room at various times over previous decades.

Despite its longevity and success, the program has had its share of difficulty. For starters, wrestling is not a popular sport. Although it offers many benefits to its participants, such as teaching toughness, self-discipline, athleticism, sportsmanship and work ethic, a lot of people just don’t “get” the sport.

When Title 9 was initiated in college sports programs during the 1970’s, many colleges cut the wrestling programs. With so few college programs, many serious athletes don’t see the point of participating in wrestling during high school. In 2005, the club membership dropped to an all time low and almost had to shut down.

Coach Jon Floresca (Right), Coach Trung Bahn (Left), Peter Grimm
and Hunter Tibodeau (Middle), Western Regionals Tournament, 2014.
Photo by Robert Grimm

In 2011, the Rhinos formed a new board and installed an energetic young coach named Jonathan Floresca. Jon was a local Shoreline resident and has deep roots in the community.

Through community outreach, the club recruited a room full of young wrestlers (ages 5 to 18 years old). The new wrestling parents were gung ho, and within a couple of years, there were a few young Rhino wrestlers who could boast about winning championship titles and the annual Washington State Championship. Among those young champions are Peter Grimm, age 9 and Hunter Tibodeau, age 11 (both of Shoreline).

With the start of the 2015 wrestling season in November, there are 30 new elementary school aged wrestlers in the room and 20 returning kids from last year. The future is looking bright and the Rhinos are on the move.

--Sean Rhodes, proud wrestling dad and Lake Forest Park resident.


Unknown November 6, 2015 at 5:21 PM  

Excellent article. Well written and very informative.

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