Enterprise’s Assassins Wrestling Club sent two local wrestlers to Orlando last week to compete in the annual AAU Disney Duals National Wrestling Tournament.
Enterprise’s Zach McFarland and Dothan’s Kennan Beaver stepped foot on the wrestling mat with some of the top freshman and sophomore wrestling stars in the entire country at the tournament. While neither was able to earn a national championship there, both picked up some wins and some valuable experience.
“It was a good experience,” Beaver said. “I’m still kind of new so it was all about learning and getting more experience.”
Beaver is a Houston Academy freshman that joined Assassins Wrestling in February after the close of the high school wrestling season.
“We just started the team at (Houston Academy) so everyone here definitely knew what they’re doing here and I’ve been able to learn a lot,” Beaver said. “Coach Kyle (Stiffler) is awesome and obviously knows what he’s doing.”
Stiffler started the Assassins Wrestling Club in Enterprise in 2017 and has steadily grown the club. Since EHS started its wrestling program last year, a number of wrestlers from the team have joined.
One of the EHS wrestlers that is also a star for Assassins Wrestling is McFarland, who just started competing during the 2018 wrestling season. McFarland ended up making it all the way to the AHSAA State Wrestling Tournament last year.
“It was terrifying,” McFarland flatly said of making it to state. “I didn’t expect to be up there. I practiced a lot but I really didn’t start competing much until closer to the end of the season. Then, I was able to make it all the way to state and it was kind of a shock.”
McFarland has earned the nickname “Spider Monkey” from his teammates based on his frame and wrestling style.
“When you see him wrestle you’ll see why,” Stiffler said of the nickname. “He’s just so bendy and wiry, it fits.”
The “Spider Monkey” started training to wrestle when he was just four years old and the sport is a family tradition.
“It’s a family thing, my whole family did it,” McFarland said of wrestling. “My dad coaches me, my brother coaches me, I have Coach Stiffler and Coach Pipkins at the high school, so I kind of have four coaches.”
While McFarland has been training as an amateur wrestler since he was a child, Stiffler says he believes he only found a true passion for it recently.
“His brother was a big wrestler and wrestled in college, so (Zach) was there but I don’t think he really had the passion for it yet,” Stiffler said. “He was just there because his brother wrestled but now he has that love for it. He’s really passionate about it and dedicated.”
McFarland made it to state in the 106-pound division last season but has officially moved up to the 113-pound division for his sophomore campaign and competed in the 118-pound division at Disney Duals. Stiffler believes that McFarland has all the tools to continue to succeed and even earn a college scholarship along the way.
“The sky is the limit for that kid,” Stiffler said. “He pushes himself so hard and he’s so mentally focused and dedicated that he can do anything. I definitely see him going to the next level.”
While both McFarland and Beaver said that a college scholarship is their ultimate goal, the youngsters have more immediate goals in mind, as well.
“I want to try to place at state to improve on last year,” McFarland said of his immediately goals. “I’ll be going up in weight class so I won’t know all the different wrestlers I’m going to be facing. I just want to keep getting better.”
Beaver – who will also compete in the 113-pound division at Houston Academy – has similar aspirations.
“I want to win more, definitely,” Beaver said. “I just kind of want to keep learning and getting better.”
While both want to find more success at national tournaments like Disney Duals, their coach said that he was proud of them just for competing.
“I’m proud of them no matter what,” he said. “To have the courage to go out there and wrestle the best of the best and learning from it will always make me proud.”