The word in wrestling circles this season has been that five-time reigning 6A champion Roseburg could be vulnerable at the state tournament.
Newberg coach Neil Russo, for one, isn’t reading too much into it as the Tigers prepare to challenge the Indians in the OSAA/OnPoint Community Credit Union 6A tournament Friday and Saturday at Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
“They’re the king until someone takes it away from them,” said Russo, whose team was runner-up to Roseburg last year. “They’ve got numbers, and it’s a numbers game.”
Roseburg, champion 10 times in the last 12 seasons, doesn’t have its usual lineup of maulers. The Indians graduated both of their state champions from last year and they do not have any No. 1 wrestlers in the Oregon Wrestling Forum 6A rankings.
What Roseburg does have, however, is a system that cranks out state-caliber competitors. The Indians qualified a 6A-high 23 wrestlers for the tournament, including two No. 1 seeds in sophomore Kahleb Diaz (126) and junior Rourke Martin (182).
“A lot of people were saying last year it wasn’t Roseburg’s to win, but they found a way,” Sprague coach Nolan Harris said. “They just keep going. So you don’t want to sleep on Roseburg.”
Roseburg won by 114 points in 2016 and 171 points in 2017, but that margin shrunk to 28.5 points over Newberg last year. The Tigers beat Roseburg 32-31 in the 6A final of the Oregon Classic this season, avenging a 36-28 loss to the Indians in the title match last season, which could indicate that the tide is turning.
Roseburg and Newberg are 1-2 in the Oregon Wrestling Forum 6A rankings and vice versa in the OSAAtoday 6A coaches poll. Sprague, Mountain View and North Medford also could be X-factors.
“I think there are four teams, maybe five, that are in the mix,” Russo said. “It may come down to some matchups between the four or five of us. I think Roseburg’s the favorite, no question about that. But I think it’s going to be closer than it’s been in previous years.”
Newberg, which took 16 to the tournament last year, has 19 qualifiers this year. Nine are seeded in the top four, and four of them are No. 1 in freshmen Nicky Olmstead (106) and Ayden Garver (113), senior Christopher Strange (120) and junior Hunter James (220).
“That’s a good place to start, but they’re going to have to prove it,” Russo said. “I think we’ve got a little more firepower than we’ve had in the past. Some of that firepower is awfully young, but they’re certainly not wrestling young. They’ve been around the block, they’ve seen big tournaments. I think they’re going to be a force.”
Six of the Tigers have reached the 40-win plateau in Olmstead, Garver, Strange, James, freshman Charlie Evans (132) and senior Oliver Myers (182). Olmstead is on pace to break the school’s single-season record for pins. Strange is a returning state champion. James was a finalist last year. And Myers is undefeated at 43-0.
“But you can’t win this tournament with five or six kids,” Russo said. “You can’t win it with nine or 10 anymore. You’ve got to have kids scoring big points, but you also have to have people who can win a couple matches and sneak their way onto the podium. This year, every point, every match is going to be a little more valuable than maybe it’s been.”
Sprague, which finished third last year, 60 points behind Roseburg, rides a wave of momentum into the tournament. The Olympians got healthy late in the season had a school-record eight champions in the Mountain Valley Conference district tournament. They will bring 16 to state.
“We hope that we can be in the conversation somewhere on Saturday,” Harris said. “It comes down to depth. It’s not if you have talented guys. You’ve got to be two-deep. Everyone’s got to go and everyone’s got to score.”
Sprague is led by a two-time champion in junior Santos Cantu (195) and senior Daniel McClung (145), both top seeds. The Olympians have five top-four seeds, tied with Roseburg for the second-most behind Newberg.
“I think at the end of Saturday, whoever’s got that blue trophy is going to be the team that had 14, 15 guys that were able to perform well,” Harris said.
A breakdown of each classification:
Teams to watch: Roseburg, Newberg, Sprague, North Medford, Mountain View
2018 team scores: Roseburg 252, Newberg 223.5, Sprague 192, David Douglas 161, Aloha 137.5, North Medford 133
2018 returning champions (2019 weight class): Christopher Strange, Newberg, sr. (120); Phillip Kue, Centennial, sr. (132); Sean Harman, West Linn, sr. (170); David Rubio, McKay, sr. (160); Santos Cantu, Sprague, jr. (195); Jack Rademacher, Sandy, sr. (182).
Multiple-time champions: Cantu (195, 195); Harman (152, 160); Kue (113, 126); Beau Ohlson, Mountain View, jr. (5A 113, 5A 126); Gaven Jolley, Sherwood, sr. (113, 120).
Notes: Roseburg and Newberg, programs with 11 titles each, appear to be the frontrunners. … Harman, who has signed with Missouri, is 79-0 in the last two seasons. … The Ohio State-bound Kue is 95-0 in the last two seasons. … Kue and Harman enter with winning streaks of 108 and 95, respectively. ... Cantu won the Reno Tournament of Champions and the Reser’s Tournament of Champions. … Ohlson has moved up from 5A, where he went 44-0 last season. He is 30-2 this season. … Rademacher was the 5A champion at 182 last year. ... Jolley won two titles before losing in the semifinals last year.
Teams to watch: Crook County, Crescent Valley, Dallas, Lebanon, Crater, Thurston
2018 team scores: Dallas 188, Crater 158, Thurston 141, Mountain View 136.5
2018 returning champions (2019 weight class): Chance Lamer, Crescent Valley, soph. (113); Hunter Mode,, Crook County, jr. (126); Legend Lamer, Crescent Valley, sr. (152); Jacob Jones, Dallas, sr. (152); Austin Watson, Thurston, sr., (160); Ein Carlos, North Salem, sr. (170); Avery Jaramillo, Thurston, sr. (195).
Multiple-time champions: Legend Lamer (106, 120, 138); Carlos (6A 145, 6A 152).
Notes: Crescent Valley, going for its first title, will try to take down Crook County, which won five of the last six 4A titles, including last year. … Legend Lamer, who is headed to Cal Poly, has not lost to an Oregon wrestler in his high school career. He is bidding to become Crescent Valley’s second four-time champion, the other being Alex Rich (2012-15). … Chance Lamer placed fifth in the Cadet World Championships in Croatia in July. … Crook County has four No. 1 seeds in Mode (126), juniors Zachary Mauras (132) and Kyle Knudtson (182) and senior Caleb Parrott (285). … Crater has the most qualifiers with 21, followed by Crook County’s 17. … Carlos, who got a late start this season due to a hand injury, enters the tournament with a 9-0 record. He is 75-0 the last three seasons.
Teams to watch: Sweet Home, La Grande, Tillamook, Baker/Powder Valley, Cascade
2018 team scores: Crook County 238.5, Marshfield 155.5, Sweet Home 146, Cascade 132, Tillamook 131.5
2018 returning champions (2019 weight class): Kody Koumentis, Marshfield, jr. (132); Kane Nixon, Cascade, jr. (138); Victor Torres, Madras, sr. (152); James Ellis, Banks, jr. (220).
Multiple-time champions: Koumentis (106, 113).
Notes: Tillamook beat Sweet Home 51-23 in the final of the Oregon Classic. The Cheesemakers are in their final season under coach Lonnie Eggert, a member of Tillamook’s 1993 title team who guided them to their last championship in 2008. Among Tillamook’s 4A-high 21 qualifiers are three top seeds in junior Quintin Metcalfe (120) and seniors Caleb Werner (170) and Fabian Niemi (182). … Sweet Home and La Grande have 19 and 16 qualifiers, respectively. … Sweet Home has eight top-four seeds, including two No. 1s in senior Robbie Yunke (145) and junior Travis Thorpe (152). The Huskies won the title in 2017, the only team other than Crook County to take the 4A crown in the last six years. … Madras’ Torres is a transfer from 2A/1A powerhouse Culver.
Teams to watch: Nyssa, Willamina/Falls City, Scio, Harrisburg, Burns, La Pine
2018 team scores: Willamina/Falls City 181.5, Nyssa 161, Glide 130, Harrisburg 126, Scio 113, La Pine 103
2018 returning champions (2019 weight class): Jordan Reyes, Willamina/Falls City, sr. (106); Gabe Vidlak, Cascade Christian, jr. (120); Derrik Kerr, La Pine, sr. (132); Elijah Cleaver, Nyssa, jr. (152); Adam Simpson, Nyssa, jr. (170); Dax Bennett, Harrisburg, sr. (170); Blake Larsen, Dayton, jr. (285); Jose Sanchez, Nyssa, sr. (220).
Multiple-time champions: Kerr (106, 120); Bennett (132, 152, 182); Sanchez (195, 220); Titus Rice, Pleasant Hill, sr. (138, 145).
Notes: The field is loaded with eight reigning champions, including two at 170 with Nyssa’s Simpson and Harrisburg’s Bennett, who has dropped down after winning at 182 last year. Simpson is seeded first and Bennett second. … Bennett, a first-team all-league quarterback and safety on Harrisburg’s football team, could become the school’s first four-time champion. He has signed to wrestle at Clackamas Community College. … Nyssa, which won three consecutive titles before finishing second last year, has eight top-four seeds. The Bulldogs have four No. 1 seeds in Simpson, Cleaver (152), Sanchez (220) and senior Dearden Woodruff (160). … Willamina/Falls City, coming off its first title in 19 years, has three top seeds in Reyes, sophomore Moses Mercier (113) and freshman Michael Fox (126). The Bulldogs defeated Scio 42-39 in the Oregon Classic final. … Pleasant Hill's Rice, the top seed at 145, won 3A titles as a freshman and sophomore at Creswell. ... Burns and La Pine have the most qualifiers with 15 and 14, respectively.
Teams to watch: Culver, Glide, Neah-Kah-Nie, Pine Eagle, Central Linn, Lowell, Vernonia
2018 team scores: Culver 201.5, Central Linn 104, Neah-Kah-Nie 63
2018 returning champions (2019 weight class): Steven Beckman, Joseph/Wallowa, jr. (113); Lorenzo Vasquez, Culver, sr. (126); Kasey Erwin, Lowell, sr. (132); Zack Holland, Glide, sr. (170); Cylus Hoke, Culver, sr. (195); Tristan Bennett, Neah-Kah-Nie, sr. (220); Drew Lusco, Grant Union, jr. (285).
Multiple-time champions: Vasquez, Culver (106, 113, 120).
Notes: Culver has won 11 of the last 12 titles, including the last five, and the Bulldogs are favored again this year as they enter with 10 qualifiers. They have three top seeds in Vasquez, Hoke and junior Lane Downing (138). … The addition of Glide, which finished third in 3A last year, strengthens the field. Culver beat the Wildcats 54-24 in the Oregon Classic final. … Vernonia, going for its first trophy since taking fourth in 1992, has a 2A/1A-high 11 qualifiers. ... The Southern Oregon-bound Vasquez is bidding to become Culver’s third four-time champion. … Glide’s Holland, the 3A champ at 160 last year, is 67-0 in the last two seasons.
2018 returning champions (2019 weight class): Marissa Kurtz, Sweet Home, sr. (110); Kyleigh Lopez, North Medford, sr. (115); Emma Truex, Phoenix, jr. (125); Sarah Conner, Central Linn, sr. (135); Bailey Dennis, Ridgeview, jr. (190).
Notes: For the first time, the girls championships are sanctioned by the OSAA. Wrestlers qualified for the four-girl brackets at two regional tournaments. No. 1 seeds from the Southern Division will face the No. 2 seeds from Northern Division, and vice versa. … Sweet Home won the Southern Division and Hillsboro took the Northern Division. … Besides the five reigning champions, three runners-up have returned from last year’s state-tournament exhibitions: Grants Pass junior Samantha Dara (100), Sweet Home junior Lexi Schilling (105) and Hood River Valley senior Grace Miller (145). ... Gervais sophomore Alexys Zepeda (130), who placed third at 113 in the 3A boys tournament last year, is the top-ranked 122-pound girl in the nation.