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Viking wrestlers become focus of MTV documentary

Published on Mon, Feb 14, 2011 by BY PAM STEVENS | MANAGING EDITOR

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MTV filming crew interviewing Eric Soler  as part of their documentary featuring the Lake Stevens wrestling team.

It takes focus, hard work and determination to be a Viking wrestler and over the past 24 years, Coach Brent Barnes has helped mold hundreds of young men into successful and outstanding grown men through the Lake Stevens High School wrestling program.

While many of his students can attest to the program’s success, both on and off the mat, one former student has been able to use his influence in Hollywood to let the world know what an incredible program we have here in our fair town.
Lake Stevens’ own Chris Pratt, best known for his television roles on “Everwood”, “The OC” and his current role in which he plays Andy Dwyer on NBC’s “Parks & Rec,” has been instrumental in the creation of an upcoming MTV documentary about the Viking wrestling team and what drives them to be one of the best teams around.

Pratt was himself a Viking Wrestler, or Berserker, as they call themselves,  almost 15 years ago and was coached by Barnes. The two have remained friends and came up with the idea together.

“Former student and wrestler Chris Pratt and I had talked about how cool it would be to do something like this. As he became more successful and started to get connected to the right people in Hollywood he finally felt comfortable writing a pitch,” Barnes said. “Originally it was pitched as a series show but now with the type of footage they have and the nature of it they believe it will be a documentary.”

Pratt began his quest to sell the idea in Hollywood and after talking to MTV they agreed to take on the project.
“About a year ago I started pitching the idea around Hollywood to see if I could raise some funding and get some money. huge fan of documentaries and because MTV is the network that’s financing, people are assuming that it’s going to be a reality show. There’s a big distinction between contrived reality and actual reality,” Pratt said. “My goal is to put Lake Stevens on the map.”

The transition from student/wrestler to ‘star’ with camera crews following their every move, has been easy for most of the team, however, sometimes repeating simple movements gets bothersome.

“At first it was distracting but they (the wrestlers) have gotten used to it and now they don’t pay much attention to them,” Barnes explained.

Eric Soler, a top ranked wrestler from Lake Stevens, has enjoyed the experience but it does take a little getting use to.
“My experience with the MTV camera crew following me around is pretty good they are really good guys but sometimes it gets annoying. We get a lot of attention from it and get asked a lot of questions by bystanders which is sometimes very annoying but dealing with it will be worth it when the world gets to see what wrestling is really about and what we are about as a team and individuals,” Soler said. “The most annoying part about having them follow us around is they make you repeat some of the things you do A LOT which is sometimes very annoying like earlier today me and a couple of teammates walked out of Safeway and they didn’t get it on film so we had to walk back and then do the same thing over again.”

MTV Producer Alex Ko is part of the crew who has been following the wrestlers for the past two and half months. Watching all that this team does to prepare for matches and also the way the fit a normal life into their schedules has been interesting, Ko said.

“As an individual I don’t think the film crew has really changed the way I prepare for a match whether it’s different for some of the others on the team I am unsure of. But Coach Barnes always tells us to have consistency in our preparation so I just try to stick to that rule and prepare myself the same before every match,” Soler said.

Barnes is a big influence in how these kids are turning out in the world and Pratt knows first hand what Barnes’ coaching can do for you.

“I know that my life was greatly changed under the tutelage of Brent Barnes and going through his program. I would like people to see what happens to these boys and how their character changes and how they grow from a boy to a man, Pratt said.

For now, the Vikings are preparing for the State Finals in Tacoma this weekend and Pratt has been part of the drills this past week after an injury on the team. He encourages everyone to support them in Tacoma.

“I’ve been here the last week or so drilling with them,” he said. “If you get a chance – come to the Tacoma Dome and check it out. Come see who’s the toughest kid in the state. Support your Berserkers.”
Part two of the series will be published in next week’s Lake Stevens Journal.

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