AS READY AS THEY'LL BE

February 19, 2002 11:00 pm

By Pat Perkins

Observer Staff Writer

Motivational posters containing quotes from famous wrestlers and pictures of Muhammad Ali line Austin Zanders bedroom walls.

One favorite quote says, When Im standing there warming up, I know the other guy is a decent wrestler, but I know theres no way hes trained as hard as me.

Has Zander trained his hardest for this weeks state wrestling tournament?

I like to think so, the senior 119-pounder said Tuesday before La Grande High School wrestling practice.

Zander and teammates Adam Kleck and Levi Hug are making the trip west to Portland today for the OSAA-U.S. Bank Class 3A Wrestling State Championships at Memorial Coliseum.

This could be the last hurrah for Zander and Kleck, another senior, as neither is certain they will compete beyond high school.

I think this is going to be it for me, said Zander, who is seeded second at his weight after finishing fourth at state a year ago.

Kleck, the third seed at 160, also isnt sure if collegiate wrestling is in his future.

Ill probably wait and see how I do at state, he said.

Kleck won a district title Saturday at the Greater Oregon League Championships, while Zander finished second and Hug, a 125-pound junior, was third.

How they do at state may depend on their draw in the brackets. La Grande coach Miles Hancock said Zander received the most favorable draw.

No other top wrestlers in state are in his quarter of the bracket, Hancock said.

Zander is ranked seventh in state, but the nearest-ranked competitor in his quarter is 11th-ranked freshman Calvin Davis of Sherwood.

Kleck is also the highest-ranked wrestler in his quarter, but six wrestlers are seeded at 160.

He had a relatively good draw, but theres a lot of tough wrestlers at 160, Hancock said.

Hug has the toughest draw of the three. He starts out against seventh-ranked Keith Pedrick, a senior from Hidden Valley. Get past Pedrick and theres third-ranked senior Jordan Johnson of Sweet Home, who has a bye in the first round.

Hugs going to have to some good matches, Hancock said.

The junior is up for it.

I just want finish the year strong and carry over to next year, he said. If I wrestle as good as I did at district, Ill be all right.

All three feel prepared. Zander wants to at least keep his seeding and finish as high as second. Kleck thinks he can finish higher.

If I wrestle (up to) my ability, I can be a state champion, he said.