No, linebacker Tevis Bartlett didn’t choose wrestling. But he believes his background in that sport — he started wrestling when he was 5 — has made him a better football player, and specifically a more fundamentally sound tackler.

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Choosing which sport he would play in college — Football or wrestling? Wrestling or football? — had weighed on Tevis Bartlett, one of the best high-school wrestlers Wyoming has ever seen.

Consider his wrestling rèsumè:

• Four-time state champion, the 18th wrestler in Wyoming prep history to do so.


UW spring preview, 12:30 p.m., Pac-12 Networks

• 189-5 high-school record, going 54-0 as a senior and 46-0 as a junior.

• National championships as a freshman and a sophomore.

He did not choose wrestling, despite offers from major-college programs. Instead, on Saturday Bartlett will be at Husky Stadium wrapping up his first spring as a strongside linebacker for Washington during UW’s spring preview workout.

No, Bartlett didn’t choose wrestling. But he believes his background in that sport — he started wrestling when he was 5, and traveled all over the country to major tournaments throughout his youth — has made him a better football player, and specifically a more fundamentally sound tackler. UW coaches saw that during a visit to see Bartlett during one of his wrestling practices at Cheyenne’s East High School a year and a half ago.

UW coaches refer to their rugby-inspired tackling techniques as the “Dawg tackle,” and after coach Chris Petersen and linebackers coach Bob Gregory watched Bartlett on the mat for a while they told him his takedown moves were essentially that — the Dawg tackle.

“It’s a double-leg. That’s all it is,” Bartlett said, sounding more wrestler than linebacker here. “That stuff transfers really well. And then understanding body control when you’re going against offensive linemen — pushing, pulling and just being able to flip your hips and stuff like that is all pretty transferable.”

Bartlett was unstoppable at the end of his high-school career, winning 109 matches in a row and pinning all four of his opponents in his last state-championship tournament. And then it was over. Just like that, he was done with wrestling.

“For me, it was picking between two loves,” he said. “At the time, I think I just felt like I liked football a little bit more. It was tough, especially when it came down to the end of my wrestling career. …

“But it came down to following my passion — and here I am.”

Tevis Bartlett file

Position: Linebacker

Height, weight: 6-2, 229

Hometown: Cheyenne, Wyo.

Notable: As a freshman last season, played in all 13 games. ... Made three tackles against Arizona and Oregon State. ... Became the 18th wrestler in Wyoming prep history to be a four-time state champion.

Except, he was drawn back to the mat this winter, in a new role near his new home.

Bartlett has a cousin in the area, and his cousin’s wife works at Cedar Heights Middle School in Kent. She mentioned to Bartlett that the school had an opening for an assistant wrestling coach and, hey, wouldn’t it be fun if you applied? Back in Wyoming during his high-school days, he had volunteered as a coach with youth wrestling teams and, well, sure, why not?

He got the job (could anyone have possibly been more qualified?). Soon after returning to campus following the Huskies’ Heart of Dallas Bowl victory, Bartlett became Coach Bartlett to the kids at Cedar Heights — and to the older kids at Kentlake High, where he agreed to volunteer on occasion. So on weekdays this winter, he would get up for early workouts with UW teammates, go to UW classes and then in the afternoon drive to the Kent/Covington area for wrestling practices or matches.

“It was really fun to be around the sport, obviously,” said Bartlett, whose goal is to become a teacher and coach one day.

Bartlett was a 4.0 student in high school and earned academic All-America honors. He excelled as a quarterback and linebacker, leading Cheyenne East to a state championship his junior year. He’s the only person to earn Athlete of the Year honors from the Wyoming Tribune Eagle three times.

“Even as a young kid playing varsity, other kids looked up to him,” East coach Chad Goff said. “The kids knew he meant business; he was all about the competition. … He was just on a different level with his focus; he was so goal-driven and worked so hard.”

The University of Wyoming wanted badly to keep Bartlett home — even dangling the possibility of him playing QB in college — and Oregon was hard after him, too.

But he had long been a fan of Petersen, and so there Bartlett was last fall at UW, earning a spot on the Huskies’ two-deep at outside linebacker as a true freshman, learning how to play special teams for the first time. He played in all 13 games, posting 11 tackles, and is now pushing senior Psalm Wooching for a starting job going into the summer.

Bartlett said he’s much more comfortable in the defensive scheme this spring, and he’s working to improve his pass rush. That hasn’t gone unnoticed.

“He’s really made a difference, showing up in his pass-rush now, putting together some moves, getting faster, more explosive,” UW co-defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski said. “We’re really encouraged by him and his progress.”