Ashlei Hawkins, Sophomore After earning a spot in the 4A State Wrestling Tournament as a freshman last year, Sandpoint High School's Ashlei Hawkins entered his sophomore season with high expectations for himself.
To his surprise, Ashlei struggled out of the gates, winning only one match, and failing to place at the Bulldogs' season-opening tournament in early December. Yet Ashlei did not let this initial setback deter him, and his determination throughout the season allowed him to not only make it back to the state tournament but also place this time around, as he finished sixth in the 126-pound weight class. "As the season progressed, I started doing better and better, and I made it to state and I worked hard," Ashlei recalled.
In addition to his success on the wrestling mat, Ashlei has also shown his potential on the football field, earning varsity reps at running back this past fall.
This spring, Ashlei is training with the Bonners Ferry Wrestling Club twice a week and competing in freestyle and Greco wrestling tournaments.
Ashlei said that he appreciates the relationships that sports have afforded him, and he loves challenging himself to improve.
"I really enjoy competing," Ashley noted. "That's what I love so much about wrestling—the grinding, the close matches [and] all that. Definitely my favorite part of sports is the competition and the people."
When he is not playing sports or training, Ashlei loves to get outside and take in the beauty of Lake Pend Oreille and the surrounding mountains. Some of his favorite hobbies include swimming, backpacking, hunting, fishing, and riding horses.
As far as his plans after high school, Ashlei thinks that he would like to attend college to study engineering and potentially play sports as well. His future aspirations range from either joining the Army as an officer or even utilizing his wrestling skills to try his hand at competing in mixed martial arts.
As he reflects on this past year, Ashlei admits that he was slightly disappointed with his sixth-place finish at the state wrestling tournament in February. He made it to the semifinal match undefeated before three straight losses dropped him to the final spot on the podium.
Despite this feeling, Ashlei explained that his sophomore season was a success overall, and he noted that the memories he made and lessons he learned will help him come back even stronger next year.
"Competing at state is amazing," Ashlei described. "The Ford [Idaho] Center is awesome. There are thousands of people there, [and] when you make the semifinals, it is you and the other guy, and everybody is watching because it's important and it [decides] who is going to go to the finals."
He concludes, "It is something I will never forget.”