Juneau, Alaska (KINY) - The Thunder Mountain High School wrestling team honored Falcons senior wrestlers Blaze Darbonne, Kadin Messmer, Kaleb Paddock and Thomas Jim before the championship rounds of Saturday’s Brandon Pilot Invitational at TMHS gym.
“Blaze is the hardest working guy in the room, by far,” coach Adam Messmer said. “Anytime somebody is slacking off, he is making sure they get back on track. He has been a joy to have in the room. Kadin is still nursing a football injury and hopefully he will be cleared for regions next week. It is kind of a bummer for his senior year not being able to participate. He was ranked in the top two of state in the preseason. I have been coaching him since he was four and I’ve known him my whole life. He is so dedicated to the sport and it is a pleasure. He plans on wrestling in college so I am not done watching him wrestle yet. Kaleb, man, he is always in the room. I don’t have to worry about where he is. Needing to do homework or whatever he is always on top of everything. He gets the other guys going. He’ll be wrestling top guys and he gets up smacking his hands and is like, ‘Let’s do it again.’ He gets the team morale up quite a bit when he’s around. Thomas wrestled in middle school and he hasn’t wrestled since. This is his senior year and he came in not in the greatest shape but he stuck with it through everything and the change in him… I think I really watched him become a man over the last couple months. I really wish he would have started wrestling a couple years ago. The change from the first day of preseason to now is astronomical. If we could have had another two years together it would have been even more special but he’s another guy that when he comes into the room he is ready to work.”
Blaze Darbonne said he has been wrestling for six years.
“I guess I kind of picked it up quick,” he said. “I like that it is a one-on-one sport. It is all on you. There is no one else to blame if you screw up, it’s all you. You can see how much you grow through the years by how well you do in matches and how well you improve in certain situations. Just the whole aspect of being up against another guy and proving you are the better man just seems fun to me. I see the sport as more of a battle, mentally and physically, and who will be the winner of that battle. I really wanted to quit when I first started but my dad was like, ‘Just power through it and push through.’ I found that the more you do it and the more you push through it, the easier it gets. The harder you push yourself, the easier it is when you face other challenges. It is a mental game. If you push yourself to the point where your brain says, ‘Give up, don’t try anymore, just get this over with,’ and you push your body and say, ‘No’ and you do mind over body, it’s that type of mentality that gets things done.”
Darbonne, nicknamed “the 18-year-old,” said his favorite move is a lateral drop, his favorite food is pineapple, he likes to play X-Box, and after high school he plans to join the U.S. Air Force and becoming a fighter pilot.
Darbonne said he hopes the future Falcons make a name for themselves.
“So when another team comes up against one of our wrestlers they realize they had better watch out because those Falcons are pretty good,” he said. “Don’t give up in the first month of practice. It is going to be hard but if you keep pushing and fighting it only gets easier.”
Kadin Messmer has been wrestling for 13 years.
“I’ve just been doing it forever and it has always been a part of my life,” Messmer said. “I think it teaches you to work hard and have the dedication with whatever you do. A lot of people don’t wrestle because they don’t like the singlets or anything. I think if you really want to wrestle it doesn’t really matter.
Messmer, nicknamed “MEZ,” said his favorite move is the double-leg, favorite food is sandwiches or spaghetti, and he plans to attend college to study kinesiology.
“We’ve been working really hard in practice,” Messmer said. “I would like to see all these new wrestlers start winning matches, working moves and doing good on the mat. You only get better by pushing yourself.”
Kaleb Paddock has been wrestling for four years.
“I started when I was a freshman,” Paddock said. “I like the experience of being able to get together with the younger kids and wrestling with the other seniors. Blaze Darbonne is definitely one of the people who I am most amazed to be able to wrestle with. I picked this sport because my grandfather, Bill Paddock, was a wrestler when he was younger in Pelican. My dad, Bill Paddock, as well, was a wrestler in Pelican when he was younger, and my brother, Dante Taylor, was a wrestler when he was in this high school. I figured I might as well just join along and I am really happy I did that.”
Paddock said there is a lot to like about the sport.
“They don’t understand just how amazing it is to be able to get together and see all these other teams,” he said. “Get to meet new people and travel around Alaska and go to these big tournaments and just have fun with each other. And to experience all these moments together.”
Paddock, nicknamed “Wolf Pup,” said his favorite food is tacos, he likes video games, listens to the band Slipknot, and after high school he plans to work as a pediatric nurse.
“My favorite wrestling move is a double-leg shot,” he said. “And then when I take them down I’ll try to get in a cradle.”
Paddock said he hopes the school carries on the wrestling tradition.
“I hope to come back next year and see all these guys,” he said. “I want to see the juniors become seniors, I want to see the sophomores become juniors, I want to see the freshmen become sophomores and I want to see more middle schoolers come in to their freshmen year. And I just want to see all of them succeed. My advice to younger wrestlers is push yourself, love the people you get to share these moments with and wrestle hard.”
Thomas Jim has been wrestling for three years.
“I like the thrill before going into a match,” he said. “And then the thrill during the match. And with however it turns out after it. Either way I like it. I like getting the experience in. The hardest thing about wrestling is keeping up with it, definitely. Sometimes people just can’t and that’s okay but if you can keep up with it, that shows you have spirit, you have strength and that is what it is all about. My first day of practice I felt rocked to my core. It was the hardest practice and after it I only remember that I did not want it to stop.”
Jim, nicknamed “Thomas,” said his favorite food is lasagna and video games, and after high school he hopes to move out of Juneau and work until he has enough money to go on a road trip.
His advice to younger wrestlers is: “Never stop giving it your all. Always find a way to get back on your feet.”