Rainwater fires up gridders, grapplers

Tall in the saddle

Posted: Tuesday, November 19, 2002

There are three things Skyview High School senior Justin Rainwater will tell you right up front.

First, despite appearances to the contrary, calf roping and wrestling do not have much in common.

Second, he has never been tossed in a trash can.

Third, Rainwater also claims -- at least when his mother is standing within earshot -- that he has never tossed anyone else in a trash can.

"Justin's a fun kid," said Rainwater's mother, Becky West. "He's not the perfect teen-ager, but he's not anywhere near the worst. He adds warmth to our house -- it's going to be quiet when he leaves."

While Rainwater has warmed up his household, he's also added some fire to the football and wrestling teams at Skyview. Rainwater stepped into the starting quarterback roll with the Panthers this year, passing for 457 yards and five touchdowns in eight games. Rainwater counted Skyview's season finale against Homer, in which he threw for 169 yards and rushed for 42, among his best efforts on the gridiron.

On the mat, Rainwater already has made his mark with a second-place finish in the 189-pound weight class at the 16-team Chugiak Invitational earlier this season. Rainwater added a first place at the Homer Round Robin Rumble this past weekend.

"I'm in the best shape I've been in in the beginning of the season in the last four years. I'm excited," Rainwater said. "I ran between football and wrestling. That helped keep me in the shape I was in for football."

That Rainwater is feeling so good early in the season bodes well for the Panthers. Skyview won the past two fall wrestling state championships and is counting on Rainwater's experience to lead them to a third straight title -- one that will be even tougher to come by as the Anchorage, Valley and Fairbanks schools have reunited with the rest of the state for a single 4A season.

Rainwater was fifth in his weight class at last year's state championships, and would like to move a little higher on the podium this season.

"I want to win state -- that's my ultimate goal," Rainwater said.

Add winning a place at the Reno (Nev.) Tournament of Champions during the holiday break, and Rainwater will be thrilled with his season.

"He's just a hard-working kid," said Skyview wrestling coach Neldon Gardner. "He started wrestling when he was real young, and he's been a pleasure to coach."

Rainwater said an uncle who had wrestled in college turned him on to the sport 12 years ago.

"I've been doing it forever," Rainwater said.

Rainwater said the challenge of having no one but yourself to rely on has kept him drawn to the sport.

"You're out there all by yourself," Rainwater said. "It's just you and the other guy. You've got nobody to blame but yourself."

Rainwater said that while he had plenty of teammates on the field with him during football, he liked being the one calling the shots from his quarterback position.

"It's crazy remembering all the plays and who's going where, but it's a lot of fun," Rainwater said. "I liked lining up there and being in control."

After wrestling season ends, Rainwater said he'd like to play soccer this spring for the Panthers. Rainwater played as a freshman and sophomore, but skipped last season.

After that, it's on to his favorite summer pastime -- rodeo.

"It's fun," Rainwater said. "I spend a lot of time with my family, riding horses."

Rainwater said taking care of the horses takes up a lot of his time, particularly when it come to his horse, "the Gimp," which always seems to be getting injured.

Rainwater said he was able to travel to Arizona last summer to spend some time learning the art of calf roping. He considering college in western Montana next year, where he continue to participate in the sport.

Eventually, Rainwater would like to be an airline pilot.

In the classroom, Rainwater maintains a B average, though he admits hitting the books has never been his favorite activity.

"School's going good. It's my senior year, and it's nice being the guy up top instead of the guy in the trash can," Rainwater said. "If it weren't for athletics, I probably would have gone crazy."

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