MUILENBURG INVITATIONAL SET FOR THIS WEEKEND

December 11, 2002 11:00 pm

More than 200 wrestlers from 17 schools will be taking to the mats this weekend at the annual Lions Club Oregon Trail Brian Muilenburg Invitational at La Grande High School Friday and Saturday.

Schools from as far away as Gresham and Lewiston, Idaho, will be competing in the big event, which has been running for more than 20 years.

La Grande wrestling coach Matt Wolcott said his team is very young, but some of his newcomers have been impressive so far.

"We have a lot of freshmen, but any one of them could surprise some guys," said Wolcott. "I'm excited to see how they'll do" at the tournament.

La Grande's Travis Carson has had a good start to his season, with two wins at The Dalles last week at 160 pounds.

Wolcott said other Tiger wrestlers to watch are Levi Hug at 130 pounds. He went to state last year. Dino May is a good 135-pound freshman, Wolcott said, as is Michael Godfrey, at 145 pounds.

Other local teams scheduled to compete at the event are Enterprise, Elgin, Joseph, Wallowa and Imbler. Enterprise showed that it is a very tough team at its home tournament last week, coming in second place to Clarkston, a much bigger Washington school.

Enterprise's Andy Wallace, a freshman, won his 119-pound class at that tournament. Enterprise's Austin Himes at 135 pounds and Jimmy VanBelle at 189 pounds were also first-place wrestlers.

Other Enterprise tournament winners expected to come to Muilenburg are Daniel Johnson of Imbler at 171 pounds, and Blake Eckstein of Elgin at 215 pounds.

Wolcott thinks Burns will be an exceptionally tough team at the tournament. The Hilanders are the defending 3A state champions.

"They are a really tough team. I expect a lot of their guys to be in the finals," said Wolcott.

Pendleton, a 4A wrestling power, is also expected to be tough.

The wrestling will begin around 4 p.m. Friday and should go until late in the night.

The second-round matches will begin at 9 a.m. Saturday, with semifinals beginning at 11 a.m. Finals matches will take place all afternoon.

The cost of admission is $5 for adults and $4 for children.