Hazen wrestlers tackle pancreatic cancer
January 2, 2014
By Christina Corrales-Toy
Highlanders host annual fundraiser
From the moment wrestlers step onto the mat, a match becomes a one-on-one battle of skill between opponents.
It may seem like the ultimate individual sport as the athlete approaches the mat alone, but that couldn’t be farther from the case — just ask the Hazen High School wrestling team.
“We all need each other in this sport, even if it’s an individual sport,” said Hazen senior Jairo Barahona. “In the end, we all depend on each other.”
That sentiment rings even truer when one of their own suffers a loss away from the gym, as head coach Rory Magana did when his father died of pancreatic cancer in 2011.
Since, the team has rallied to host its annual Taking Down Pancreatic Cancer dual meet benefiting the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network.
“He’s our coach, he’s like our father, so we all feel like we’re family,” Barahona said. “We all fight through to be able to get money so that those who are suffering don’t have to go through what people like Rory went through.”
If you go
The team will host its fourth event at Hazen High School Jan. 17, featuring the wrestling squads from Hazen, Highline and Oak Harbor, Magana’s alma mater. The Highlanders are also looking to add one more team.
Last year’s event at Highline High School included a bake sale, raffles and the sale of T-shirts to raise funds for pancreatic cancer research. This year, attendees should expect more of the same, Magana said, along with an evening of top-flight wrestling competition.
“It’s awesome. I love the fact that we’re doing something good for the community. It’s nice to do something good for people other than ourselves, rather than just focusing on wrestling and athletics,” Magana said.
Pancreatic cancer is the fourth-leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States. It’s one of the few cancers for which survival rates have not dramatically improved through the years, largely because detection tools to diagnose the disease in its infancy do not yet exist.
Magana’s father Rodney died just eight months after he was diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer.
The Magana family has worked tirelessly since to educate others about the disease, culminating with the annual tournament.
“We’re carrying our favorite sport over to a cause that’s greater than ourselves,” Magana said, “and that’s the most important thing.”
Highlanders show well at Hammerhead Invitational
The Hazen wrestling team traveled to the Kitsap Peninsula Dec. 20-21 to compete in the Hammerhead Invitational, where it had its best performance ever at the 40-team tournament.
Malik Haythorne was the Highlanders’ top finisher, placing second in the 152-pound division. Haythorne upset the state’s fourth-ranked wrestler to make it to the finals.
Hazen’s Zach Moore (138) and Barahona (182) each placed fifth in the tournament that featured teams from Washington and Oregon.
“Overall, the team performed well and beat out a few tough programs in the team standings,” Magana wrote in an email. “Our team has started to become a strong tournament team, which is something new to us.”
Things are indeed looking up for Hazen, which wasn’t the case at the beginning of the year when they found out they lost some key returning players to injuries and academic issues, Magana said.