LA GRANDE GRAPPLERS READY TO HIT THE MATS
By Raenelle Kwock
Observer Staff Writer
Enthusiasm is high among La Grande's wrestlers this season.
"They have a really good work ethic," Coach Matt Wolcott said. "They're very respectable."
The Tigers did not win a Greater Oregon League dual meet last season.
"We're definitely more competitive than last year," Wolcott said. "We still are very young."
He said the freshmen will have to fill the empty weights and compete at the varsity level.
"Some freshmen will get right into battle," Wolcott said. "They'll be ready to compete and we'll see what happens."
There are six freshmen and eight sophomores on the squad. Four of the sophomores placed at district last season.
Returning is sophomore Dino May, a state qualifier, who placed third at district. The remaining district placers are sophomores Michael Godfrey, who finished fourth, Jeremy Blakely, who wound up sixth , and Sean Crow, who took fifth.
There are no juniors and three seniors.
Senior Dennis O'Reilly, who placed fourth at district is back. Senior Jared Blakely is wrestling in his first year.
Wolcott said senior Chris Tinnin, a transfer from Southridge in Kennewick, is tough.
"He'll make a big impact in the state of Oregon," Wolcott said. "He should place high in the state tournament."
Tinnin qualified for the Washington state tournament last year.
Wolcott is expecting the seniors and some of the sophomores who qualified at district to provide leadership this season.
The remaining sophomore class consists of returners Tyrell Grove and Kenrick Neustel. Sophomores Kelley Burgess and Tad Fox are wrestling in their first years on the team.
The freshmen are Dusty Bell, Steven Conklin, D.J. May, Greg Mills, Zach Paredes and Kyle Witty.
Wolcott said practices have been going well.
"We've been trying to get more numbers out," Wolcott said. "We're lagging on numbers, but the kids that are there are working hard everyday and are definitely dedicated."
Wolcott said the freshmen are experienced wrestlers and will have a significant impact this season.
Klel Carson and Dave Watson will be assisting Wolcott.
Nine Tigers participated in the North Idaho College Summer Team Camp.
Wolcott said it shows these wrestlers care about improving and want to be more competitive.
The Tigers will compete in The Dalles Friday.
Their first home appearance will be at the Muilenburg Tournament Dec. 12-13.