LOCAL GRAPPLERS TAKE TO THE MATS
By Raenelle Kwock
Observer Staff Writer
Wrestlers from near and far have been practicing and preparing for the Muilenburg Tournament here this weekend. Six local programs competing in this tournament return familiar faces and newcomers this season. Powder Valley does not have a team this season.
Coach Troy Farwell expects Enterprise to continue the success from the school's tournament Friday.
Enterprise was second to 3A Clarkston and had three first-place finishes. Two finished second and two were third in their weight classes.
The team returns seniors Austin Himes at 130 and Jimmy VanBelle at 189, who were state qualifiers last year; juniors Jake McCleary at 119, who was second at state last year, Chad Sams at 125, Collin Cunningham at 140, Justin Moncrief at 103 and Justin Wilks at 215. New to the team are senior transfer 152-pounder Jason Douglas, and freshmen Andy Wallace at 112 and Joe Singler at 275.
"We got pretty good leadership and just knowledgeable kids," Farwell said, who takes over as coach after four years as an assistant. "The kids want to be there."
He said the team's weaknesses are numbers and being an older team. Farwell said Enterprise came in second at its tournament because it filled only 10 weight classes unlike Clarkston, which had 25 kids competing.
Farwell said the team as a whole is very strong, though.
He said Wallace wrestled a heck of a tournament Friday. Wallace won the 119-pound class.
"I look for great things from him," Farwell said.
After Muilenburg, Enterprise will host the Northeast Oregon Classic next weekend. Friday will be a dual meet tournament and Saturday is a bracketed individual tournament.
Joseph has 16 wrestlers out, 10 of which are returning athletes.
Coach Dave Yost said this is a young team with six sophomores and five freshmen.
Returning are seniors Chris Garrett at 140 to 145, Pat Lynn at 130, a state qualifier last year; Ryan Barstad, state qualifier last year; junior Christian Ambroson at 171; sophomores Lance Strickland at 135 to 140, Mike Gamboa at 152, Aaron White at 145 or 152, Dylan Lewis at 125 to 130, Clayton Lowe at 189 and Jason Harding at 171. Newcomers are senior Jesse Sanchez at 215; and freshmen Kyle Schoeningh at 103, William Ebes at 140 to 145, Thane Shetler at 119, Kyle Clough at 112 and Skyler Easley at 135 to 140.
Yost said he wants the team to finish higher at tournaments.
"I'd like to be more competitive in dual situations when we can be," he said.
Yost said Joseph does not do much dual competition. The Eagles have league duals in a couple weekends.
At Enterprise, Yost said Joseph gave up a lot of points in the third period and must work hard to be in better shape.
"Our technique is coming," he said.
Yost said Joseph had 32 takedowns, giving up 20 at the tournament. It gave up more pins, which was not a goal, he added.
Yost is assisted by Eric Schoeningh.
A small team of six have experience and talent, coach Pat Nearing said. Nearing was an assistant coach last year.
The team consists of junior Daniel Johnson at 171, a state qualifier last year; senior Zach Myers at 160, state qualifier last year, junior Seth Mendel at 125, who was first at district and a state qualifier last year, sophomore Jeff Smith at 171, who was fifth at district, senior Jay Butts at 189 and freshman Luke Hines at 140.
"I expect especially the experienced kids to do very well this year," Nearing said.
He said the team has started well.
Johnson was first, Mendel third and Myers second in their weight classes at Enterprise.
Nearing said skill level is important to do well, and winning comes when skill improves.
"So far, we're really pleased," he said about the skill level.
He said the wrestlers on his team are talented, enthusiastic, do the extra stuff and pay attention.
"They're a good group of young men to work with," Nearing said.
Nearing is assisted by Steve Bartell, Doug Noyce and Mario Perez.
Coach Rocky Burgess seeks improvement from last year.
"Last year, we placed in the top 50 percent in every tournament," he said. "As a team, we're going to strive to be better than that this year."
Burgess said he didn't have to regroup as far as going back to the basics with his new kids.
"They picked it up pretty fast," he said.
He said the attitude is a lot higher this year and the team is working hard together.
Donald Love at 160 is the team's lone senior.
"Our junior class is pretty tough," Burgess said.
The class is made up of Blake Eckstein at 215, district champion and state qualifier last year, Ricky Foster at 171, Vance Horn at 160 and Chad McDonald at 189.
The sophomores are Codi Burgess at 145, district runner-up and state qualifier last year, and Thomas Witherspoon at 112.
Coach Burgess said he is glad to have four freshmen Robbie Kast at 119, Cody Henderson at 140, Toby Fincher at 145 and Ryan Thompson at 135.
"They're going to do well," he said. "My four freshmen are coming around really fast."
Burgess is assisted by Jason Lathrop and Leroy Fincher.
It is a rebuilding year for Wallowa, coach Jason Crenshaw said.
On the team are junior Brandon Frei at 160, senior Sam Both at 160, junior Patrick Silveira at 171, and freshmen Cody Rickert at 135, Dusty Schaefer at 145, Tanner Shelton at 125 and Samuel Brainard at 119.
"Our older boys with experience could do something, but I'm looking for the kids to do well throughout the season and improve," Crenshaw said.
He said he is pretty excited where the team is at this early in the season, and Wallowa may surprise some people, he hopes, with individual performances this year.
There is excitement and support for a program starting up again.
"Everyone is real excited to see the program back," volunteer coach Woody Wright said.
He said many of the kids were familiar with WWF and Hulk Hogan before competing for the first time on the mat at the Enterprise Kick-Off Tournament Friday.
"They got a long ways to go," Wright said. "From the first night of practice till now, it's amazing."
He said the team is looking forward to competing at its second tournament this weekend.
"They're definitely up to the challenge," he said. "They're real excited. They can't wait to step on the mats."
The team lost junior 160-pounder Tyler Ballard to a broken ankle at Enterprise. On the team are sophomores Ronnie Sauer at 125, Billy Garrison at 135, Grady Bodenschatz at 140, Chris Poe at 152, Mike Seale at 160, Chance Moore and Bryce Waite at 189, and Josh Stout at 275. The freshmen class consists of Casey Whiteid at 103, Justin Law at 112, Harold Wolford at 130, John Waite at 215 and Jarrid Magee at 275.
The team is raising money for the program by working at people's homes and ranches.
Four assistant coaches Wayne Sturm, Shane Fredricks, Shannon Hively and Milton Hooton are volunteering their time.