SMALL SCHOOL GRAPPLERS BEGIN SEASON
By Raenelle Kwock
Observer Staff Writer
The newly formed Powder Valley team and the combined Elgin/Imbler team add new dynamics to the local wrestling scene this season.
The competition will be fierce in every tournament leading up to district in the quest to secure state berths.
"It's nothing but good," Elgin/Imbler coach Rocky Burgess said.
He said the wrestlers have overcome their nervousness and get excited during tournaments. Elgin and Imbler decided to combine their teams because Imbler had such a small team it would have been difficult for the Panthers to compete.
"The group now is one," Burgess said.
Blake Eck-stein of Elgin, the defending state champ-ion at 215 pounds, is a "super sharp wrestler," Burgess said. Eckstein was 28-0 last season.
Daniel Johnson and Jeff Smith, 171-pound Imbler wrestlers, will do a lot better because of the competition and practice, Burgess said.
Johnson won his weight class at district and took third at state, while Smith was second at district and qualified for state.
The other Elgin wrestlers are Justin Sanders and Thomas Witherspoon (119); Robbie Kast (125); Nick Shepherd (135); Josh Arrand (140); Jeremy Matte (145); Toby Fincher and Rian Thompson (152); Vance Horn, Cooper Wilhelm and David Dyer (160); Eddy Arnold (171); and Chad McDonald (189).
Kast, Thompson, Fincher, Horn and McDonald placed at district. Horn went to state.
The other Imbler wrestlers are Brady Anthony (135); and Loren Ainsworth, Kaleb Buffum and Curtis Halsey (171).
Burgess said weaknesses include the team not being able to fill all the weight classes and having too many wrestlers in the same weight class.
"We're looking forward to a good year," Burgess said.
Johnson and McDonald won their weight classes at the Enterprise Kick-Off. Eckstein extended his winning streak from last year, taking first in his class at the Nyssa Tournament.
Nine underclassmen are on a young Wallowa team.
Wallowa coach Jason Crenshaw is looking to seniors Patrick Silveira and Teran Taylor to be the leaders.
Silveira made it to the 189-pound consolation final at the Oregon Trail-Brian Muilenburg Invitational Wrestling Tourna-ment. He wrestles at 171.
Taylor was fourth at state in the 135-pound class last year. He has not wrestled yet this season because of an injury.
The sophomores are Tanner Beglau (112), Samuel Brainard (135), Cody Rickert (135), Tanner Shelton and Dusty Schaeffer (140), K.C. McKenzie (145) and Chris Rickert (160). Freshmen Quinton Byers (103) and Jacob Spaur (119) round out the team.
Shelton placed at district.
"I think the kids we have are really strong," Crenshaw said.
Shelton and Byers were in the consolation semifinals at Muilenburg.
Powder Valley has a team again after a hiatus.
"That's really positive," Powder Valley assistant coach Ken Bain said.
On the team are freshmen David DeMarre (112), Andrew Umpleby (125) and Ben Nelson (130), sophomore Steven Willitts (215), junior Sean Lynch (171) and senior Zach Whitford (140).
Whitford was sixth at Muilenburg.
"We're pretty excited about it (the program)," Bain said. "We have a team again."
Brandon Young is the head coach. Jared Bain is an assistant coach.
The program is growing after it was reinstated last season.
Union coach Woody Wright said the underclassmen are the strength of the team.
Freshman Tim Cox made it to the 130-pound consolation semifinal at Muilenburg.
Sophomore Casey Whiteid was in the 119-pound consolation semifinal at Muilenburg.
The team gets a boost this year from freshman Jeramy Boothman and sophomore Bryan Boothman (135), who both transferred from La Grande, and sophomore Patrick Record (171), from Naches, Wash.
Also on the team are freshmen Troy Savely (152), Tom Stratton (160) and Eric Dewitt (171); sophomores Justin Law (125), John Waite (189), Jarrid Magee (275); juniors Brice Waite (215) and Josh Stoute (275); and senior Willie Duncan (215).
Record, Bryan Boothman and Stratton have yet to wrestle because of injury and illness.
Magee placed at district last year.
"They're dedicated and want to see the program grow," Wright said. "They realize they're the building blocks of the program."
Wright said the wrestlers have been getting one-on-one attention from four to six coaches.
"I think they'll be surprised how far they've gotten with one year of experience," he said.
The entire team came home with a medal from district last season. Six wrestlers went to state.
"I think we really can get everyone a medal at district (this season)," Enterprise coach Troy Farwell said.
The strength is in the senior class Justin Moncrief (112), Jake McCleary (119), Chad Sams (130), Dustin McElroy (140), Collin Cunningham (145), James Nash (189) and Justin Wilks (215).
However, Farwell said it is a "double edged sword" because there are no young kids, meaning the team will be down in numbers next season.
The seniors provide "good leadership and experience," he added.
McCleary, who finished sixth in the state last year, won his weight class at Enterprise, while Moncrief was in the consolation semifinal at Muilenburg.
Sophomores Andy Wallace (125), freshman Jerry Sparks (145), freshmen Matt Exon and Cody Schwendiman (152), and juniors Tristan Beck and Erik Gilliland (160) round out the team.
"I've been very impressed with their abilities," Farwell said.
Joseph coach Matt McDowell expects good things this season.
He returns to coaching after taking two years off.
The team consists of sophomore Mike Price (103), sophomore Kyle Clough (119), sophomore Kyle Schoeningh (125), junior Thane Shetler (130), senior Randall Eschler (135), junior Kevin Ryan (140), junior Aaron White (145), junior Lance Strickland (152), senior Kirk Borgerding and junior Mike Gamboa (160), sophomore Robert Jordan (171), junior Jason Harding (189) and junior Clayton Lowe (215).
Schoeningh, White, Harding and Lowe placed at district.
Eschler won his weight class at Enterprise. He beat the No. 2-ranked wrestler in the state and wound up third at Nyssa.
"He should be in the top three at state," McDowell said.
Lowe is 8-2 and took fourth at Nyssa and second at Enterprise.
"He should be a force in our league," McDowell said.
McDowell said the wrestlers are young, but have great attitudes.
"It is an easy team to coach," he said.