November 29, 2001 11:00 pm
STATE CONTENDER: La Grandes Adam Kleck (right) placed third at state at Februarys state tournament in Portland. (The Observer file photo/ PAT PERKINS).
STATE CONTENDER: La Grandes Adam Kleck (right) placed third at state at Februarys state tournament in Portland. (The Observer file photo/ PAT PERKINS).

By Pat Perkins

Observer Staff Writer

For the first time in a long while, the La Grande Tigers wrestling team is stacked in the upper weights.

Theres senior Cam Visconty, who was La Grandes starting heavyweight in Greater Oregon League dual meets last season. And theres senior Harley Ahner, who did not wrestle last season but will see time at heavyweight. And theres junior Dellan Kodep, a strong athlete at 215 pounds.

Add some good candidates in the 171 and 189-pound ranks, and the Tigers have depth among the big boys.

Yet the team is young, according to head coach Miles Hancock, with many first-year wrestlers and nobody penciled in at 103 or 112.

We have a strong group of returning kids, said Hancock, who retakes leadership of the program after being an assistant coach last year under Klel Carson. Hancock was head coach in 1999 and was an assistant under Kelly Edvalson prior to that.

Edvalson and Carson are still assistant coaches, with Carson working more with the middle school program.

We have three returning state qualifiers, two of whom were high placers at state, plus theyre both seniors this year, so weve got a good leadership crew, Hancock said.

Those two seniors are Adam Kleck and Austin Zander. Kleck was third at state at 145 pounds in February and will wrestler either 152 or 160 this season. Zander was fourth at 112 and has moved up to 119.

Zander and Kleck both have an excellent work ethic and I expect theyll set goals for themselves to get back to the state tournament, Hancock said.

La Grandes other returning state qualifier is junior Matt Hall, who went 2-2 at the state tournament at 152. Hall will stay there or bump up to 160.

He improved a lot last year and if he keeps improving like he did last season hell be up there in the hunt for state as well, Hancock said.

Hall and Kleck lead the logjam at 152. Junior Travis Carson and sophomore Dennis OReilly both wrestled some varsity last season but may have to move to 171 to do so this year, Hancock said.

Even at 171 and 189, La Grande has depth, albeit with inexperienced wrestlers. Seniors Jacob Simonis and Joseph Waite are first-year wrestlers who could go at either weight, and freshman Logan Joseph will compete anywhere from 160 to 189. Junior Chaney Parker is a candidate at 171.

Junior Levi Hug, a two-year varsity wrestler, gets the nod at 125 or 130, with sophomore Tony Lambert behind him in that weight range.

Two freshmen who have drawn Hancocks praise are Tony Shaw and Shawn Hescock, who are in the 135 to 140-pound range. They were part of last years middle school team.

Itll be a rough season for them because were going to be forced to throw one of them in the varsity lineup each week, Hancock said. Regardless, both have strong potential, he added.

Freshmen Curtis Bahr and Loren Andrews will compete at the lower weights.

La Grande went undefeated in GOL dual meets last year, but dont expect the same this year because of the holes at 103, 112 and 140, not to mention the inexperience at some other weights.

Were focusing on those younger guys, trying to bring them up to speed, Hancock said. Then well focus on technique a week or two from now.