North Bend family suffers from 'wrestling-itis'

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NORTH BEND - The Haas family describes wrestling as a disease. Scott Haas caught the bug while wrestling in high school and college. By all accounts it is incurable and hereditary.

After marrying and having children, Scott tried his best to conceal his love of the sport from his five sons because of its addictive nature. He stashed all of his wrestling memorabilia in a box and put it away.

When his oldest son, Alex, was in the sixth grade, the junior Haas told his father and mother, Patricia, he wanted to wrestle. Scott tried talk him out of wrestling, but it didn't work - his greatest fear was realized. Alex still wanted to wrestle regardless of his father's warnings of how life-consuming the sport could be.

Now all the sons N Alex, 14, Matthew, 13, Michael, 11, Peter, 10, and David, 8 - are wrestling in five different divisions of the United States of America Wrestling Federation.

USA Wrestling is the national governing body for amateur wrestling in America, and is a member of the U.S. Olympic Committee and the international wrestling federation.

Alex wrestles in the cadet division of USA Wrestling in the 94.5-pound weight class, and recently took first place in the state in the freestyle, Greco-Roman and collegiate championships, all different styles of wrestling. That qualified him for the July 21 national championships in Fargo, N.D., which is the largest wrestling tournament in the world. Scott said colleges go to the national championship tournament to recruit, and his son will face the top three wrestlers in the cadet division from nearly all 50 states. Alex, who won the Seamount District championship for the second time while wrestling for Snoqualmie Middle School, leaves July 19 for the nine-day trip.

"It's kind of like a big challenge; it's hard to describe the feeling," Alex said of his love of wrestling. "It's like you're conquering something. I want to win the Olympics, thatOs my goal.O

The second-oldest brother, Matthew, wrestles in the school-boy division of USA Wrestling in the 90-pound weight class. He took second place in the state collegiate competition, third in freestyle and fourth in Greco-Roman. He took home his first district championship this year while wrestling as an Eagle.

Michael wrestles in the novice division's 65-pound weight class and earned second place at state in Greco-Roman and third in collegiate.

Younger brother Peter is in his second year of wrestling in the midget division of the 65-pound weight class. He garnered a first-place win in Greco-Roman, second in freestyle and fourth in collegiate at state. For the most part, he said, he enjoys having four brothers.

"Sometimes you have someone on your nerves, other times you have someone to be with,O Peter said.

David, the youngest, wrestles in the 55-pound weight class of the bantam division. At state, he placed second in freestyle and fourth in collegiate. His division does not wrestle Greco-Roman style. He said he likes having several brothers, especially the fringe benefits they provide.

"I pretty much have the easiest [chores] - garbage around the house," he said.

The garbage builds up rather quickly, too. Patricia said the family goes through about a gallon of milk each day, and that when French toast is served, they go through three loaves of bread just to feed everyone. Their monthly grocery bills for five boys are horrendous.

"It's a healthy house payment,"Scott said.

"We're going to start sending them over to their friends' house," Patricia said.

A walk inside the Haas house can seem unusually quiet, as if only one child lives there. The living room is free of a typical families' assortment of toys, socks, plates and glasses, and the hardwood floors, Persian rugs and leather furniture remain perfectly intact.

Patricia said once the wood floors were put in, wrestling indoors stopped.

"We don't wrestle in the house," she said.

"That's not to say they haven't broken plenty of things," Scott added.

Luckily, there's a place where they can wrestle. It's called "the jungle," but it's actually a renovated garage in the backyard of their North Bend home that was converted into sleeping quarters and matted wrestling arena for the five boys. Stacked bunk beds line the walls, and wrestling mats arranged side-by-side in the middle of the room take center stage, both literally and figuratively.

The jungle allows the boys to wrestle according to a regimented schedule. Each day begins with a 4 a.m. wake-up call, followed by an hour of wrestling, school, then homework and ending with another hour or two of wrestling in the afternoon.

Scott said those who think he and his wife are up early in the morning, making sure the boys are practicing, are wrong. They get up on their own, as their parents sleep.

One might also wonder where the boys go to be alone. It can be difficult to find solitude in the house, with its open floor plan and no upstairs. And the jungle has no visible hiding spots where one can disappear for some privacy.

Matthew said when he wants to get away, he rides his bike into town. Michael said he prefers the bathroom.

Even with five children, Scott and Patricia manage to get away for a date night once a week, and the older boys serve as baby-sitters for other times when the parents want to be alone. Despite the challenges, mother and father recommend having a large family, saying it became easier over time.

"It was huge having one kid, double having two, not triple at three, and at four we didnOt notice it,O Scott said.

Scott said although it is only their third year of wrestling and the boys have found success quickly, in a lot of ways, they are just beginning to understand the sport. With Alex's hopes of an Olympic gold medal - and the amount of medals already won by all five boys - it seems there is no cure for the disease first caught by the father, and now passed down to his sons.

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