The Eastern Oregon wrestling coaches tossed a wide net, reaching from Alaska to Nevada, California to Montana, and each state in between to bring in the next wave of athletes.
“We’re pretty excited about the first group of (wrestlers) coming in that we’ve signed,” EOU head coach Dustyn Azure said.
To this point in 2017, EOU has brought in an additional eight athletes for the men’s team and six for the women — several of whom are state champions. The addition brings depth and strength that Azure hopes will help fill out the roster, and lead to more competition in the practice room.
“We’re filling in some spots that we are not necessarily weak at, but we want to get in there and have better practice partners,” Azure said. “Iron sharpens iron. We’ve been saying that from Day 1. That’s what we’re hoping for, is to get people in there to give each weight class a scare.”
Arguably the most decorated of the men’s recruits is Marco Retano, who wrestled for Class 2A powerhouse Culver. Retano, whose older brother, Jesus, just completed his football career at EOU, reached the championship match at the state tournament all four years, winning the state title three times (113 pounds in 2014, 126 in 2015 and 145 in 2016).
“We’re definitely excited about him,” Azure said. “I think he’ll be a great fit here. His brother did a great job playing football, and I think he’s going to follow suit and do a great job on the wrestling team. He’s a kid that’s got a lot of talent.”
Retano, who is initially pegged to wrestle at 157 pounds for EOU, is one of five state champion wrestlers signed by Azure.
“I’ve been there a lot, it’s really similar to where I live in Culver,” Retano said of why he chose EOU. “Overall, I think it’s a really good place to be.”
Retano said he grew to like the area after making several trips to watch his brother play football. He also appreciates Azure’s coaching style.
“I think he’s got a very aggressive, go-get-em coaching style. I like that. He’s a hard-working coach. I love hard work, too,” Retano said.
Joining Retano are David Burton (125/133 pounds) of Elko, Nevada, Jacob Posey (141) from Kalama High School in Washington, Jared Brant (141/149) from Homer, Alaska, and Luis Salazar (285), another Elko grappler.
Azure said part of the reason for the widespread region the athletes came from has partially to do with the appeal of EOU’s program, one of just a few options for wrestling in the area.
“We are a school that’s really appealing to this Northwest corner. There’s not very many opportunities for athletes,” he said.
Azure noted there was also a bit more strategy involved in this recruiting class. Unlike a year ago, when recruiting primarily meant trying to get as many athletes as possible and the goal was just to “put some depth in each weight class,” having wrestlers already in place gives the program the opportunity to be more calculated.
“We were looking a little bit more into our region, into the nation,” he said. “Coach (Ty) Vinson did a great job of putting together a spreadsheet of the people that are going to be returning from last year’s national tournament (and) which weight classes are leaving.”
Azure said they took a similar approach to see who was returning and leaving form the region.
“That’s how we’re going to be doing our recruiting this year to kind of fill in those spots,” he said.
The rest of the men’s class also features several state placers: KJ Swanson (149), a two-time placer from Missoula, Montana; Drake Randall (157), a four-time placer and two-time state finalist from Lewiston, Idaho, who is transferring from Montana State-Northern; and Keegan Dorsey (174), a two-time placer from Bonney Lake High School in Washington.
Azure said there are still about 13 more wrestlers he is looking at. He said, however, that there isn’t a set number of recruits he wants to take in for next season.
“We just want to field a good group and have a pretty equal amount at each weight class,” he said. “We want everyone to be able to compete for a weight class (and) make it competitive.”
The addition of six wrestlers for the EOU women’s program nearly doubles the size of the squad and helps the Mountaineers have a more complete team.
“A lot of the focus was building our lineup,” Vinson, EOU’s assistant coach, said. “We were pretty strong in the lower weights this year, and had really no one in the upper weights. That was where a lot of our focus went early.”
Half of the signees, which will help fill those higher weight classes for the Mountaineers, came from one school — Tokay High School, based in Lodi, California, which both coaches said boasts a strong girls program.
The group includes Madisen Bozovich (150 pounds), a state runner-up as a junior who was a top seed in 2017 before suffering an injury; Alexis Cavero (170), who took third place in 2017; and Alexis Borruel (189), who took third-place last season and also is a high school All-American.
“Those three were definitely the front-runners of our early recruiting,” Vinson said. “All three are state placers. They have a big women’s tournament (in California). They’re one of the nation’s top girls divisions. Those three were really big pick ups. We got them to sign early, (and) I think that had a domino effect with getting the other three.”
The other three wrestlers includes two from Washington, and features Leah Olsen of Sedro Woolley High School. Olsen wrapped up her career with a state title at 100 pounds and also earned All-American honors at the 2016 Folkstyle National Tournament. Meredith Bain (190), from Oak Harbor High School in Washington, was sixth place at 190 pounds and twice earned all-state honors. Rachel Sanchez-Lewis, out of Capital High School in Boise, Idaho, wrestled in the 160-pound boys division. Idaho does not yet have a girls division for wrestling.
“There were some upper-weight girls that will definitely help fill out our lineup, and make us a lot more competitive in duals,” Vinson said. “The main goal is to not just build our roster but get competitive people. We’re pretty close to that. I think we’ll get a few more that we’ve been in contact with.”