If the Battle of the SpudCat doesn’t leave an indelible mark on fans of high school wrestling, the trophy most certainly will.
Last Thursday in La Center, the Ridgefield and La Center wrestling teams renewed their non-league rivalry that was launched by Ridgefield coach Kim Simmons and his son, La Center coach Kyle Simmons.
“It was Thanksgiving before Kyle’s second season coaching here (at La Center), and we’re talking after dinner around the table,” Kim Simmons recalled. “And he goes ‘Hey Dad, we ought to get together and we should have a dual, and we should call it the SpudCat. We’ll make a trophy, and it will be a Mr. Potato Head with cat ears. And I was like ‘hey I like that. I like that.’ Hence, the SpudCat was born.“
Kyle Simmons added: “I was kind just messing around. You know, what if we meshed them together?”
From that idea, the Simmons commissioned friend and local artist Alex Bubb, a former Skyview wrestler, to design a trophy for the event. And the result was, well, different.
The trophy is a scowling potato with cat ears wearing wrestling headgear, and it could haunt your dreams.
“The trophy that we had commissioned from Alex Bubb came out a little bit different,” Kyle Simmons said. “But I like it. I like the weirdness. Well, the differentness of it, not weirdness. It’s unique. I don’t want to call it weird.”
Kim Simmons didn’t have that problem.
“It was supposed to be derived out of Mr. Potato Head and a cat, and it looks more like Satan,” he said.
But if it gets people talking about the rivalry, then the trophy has done its job.
La Center won the first SpudCat in 2015. The Spudders took the next five meetings.
Then, during the 2020-21 season, no one won, when COVID protocols prevented the two teams from wrestling last season. Kim Simmons noted the missed meeting on the trophy that COVID won, 84-0.
“I didn’t want somebody looking back on this event years from now and wonder ‘What happened in 2021?’ ” he said. “I don’t know if anyone will ever forget that. But anyway, I put COVID, 84-0 because if we were to lose every match by a pin, the score would be 84-0.”
The meeting in 2021-22 season also got initially postponed. It was scheduled back in December with the county put a three-week pause on wrestling.
But father and son kept looking for a spot to schedule the meet, and they found one last Thursday.
And turned out to be a great night of wrestling. Kim Simmons said it reminded him of the first Battle of the SpudCat in 2015.
“That one came down to the final match, and they ended up beating us,” Kim Simmons said. “Was I disappointed? Yeah. Was I proud? More than I was disappointed. But I vowed to Kyle ‘This would be the last time you ever beat me.’ Then seven years later, he got me again.”
Thursday’s match was a back-and-forth affair, and when La Center’s Lane Roberts recorded a technical fall at 220 pounds, it pulled La Center within 30-29 of the Spudders.
Like in 2015, the meet came down to the final match. This time, at 106 pounds, La Center’s Leah Wallway scored a pin a little over a minute into her match, giving the Wildcats a thrilling 35-30 win.
“I could say they beat us because of COVID, but they’re on the same side of the boat that we are on with that,” Kim Simmons said. “So I can’t use that as an excuse. They beat us at their own tournament. They beat us at Clark County, and they beat us here.”
For Kyle Simmons, the event was more about getting the chance to renew the rivalry. The win was just the cherry on top.
“We had a few waves of COVID go through the program the last couple of weeks,” Kyle Simmons said. “So it’s not our full team back, but it is certainly the most we’ve had for like a month and a half. … But with the highs and lows we’ve gone through this season, it was awesome to be able to give the kids a cool one-on-one dual match. The win was awesome, but just to have a meet that comes down to the last match, it didn’t really matter who won that. It was cool.”
So the Battle of the SpudCat lives on. And Kim Simmons hopes it outlasts the father-son duo who got it started.
“I’m hoping that by the time I retire – even by the time Kyle retires – this tradition will continue,” he said.