The Pioneers believe they have the horses to de-throne the Lions
OREGON CITY - West Linn's got to be the favorite in Three Rivers League wrestling, until someone proves differently. The Lions have 11 district place-winners - including four district champions - back from last year's team that won district for the 10th year in a row.
But the Lions had better watch-out for Oregon City. The Pioneers are also loaded with experience, and they've got a newfound confidence after upsetting West Linn and claiming last year's TRL dual-meet title.
'Our team goals are to finish first at district, win the league dual-meet championship like last year, and with the new classification, to be the first team to win the first 6A title,' said Oregon City senior Scott Shugert.
'I think that this year we're twice as strong as last year,' said Oregon City sophomore Jake Morris. 'Our depth is huge. We've got at least four guys in each weight.'
Oregon City head coach Roger Rolen, who's been involved with Oregon City wrestling for over 20 years, said, 'We've got 62 kids in the room. That's the biggest turnout since I've been here….I think we've got a good chance of placing at state.'
'We can't overlook anybody, but I think we'll be able to the accomplish the goal that I stated in the newspaper last year,' said Morris.
Following Oregon City's dual win over West Linn a year ago, Morris stated, 'The class of 09 is going to beat West Linn all four years.'
Shugert (HWT) and Morris (140) return to defend district titles. They are among 14 returning Oregon City wrestlers who placed at district last year and among five Pioneers who competed at state.
Shugert placed fourth at state at heavyweight a year ago, his first season of wrestling. The talented Pioneer big-man has made a verbal commitment to accept a full-ride scholarship to play football for the University of Washington.
Oregon City seniors Tony Garboden (140) and Andrew Marshall (160), and junior Dave Tkach (152) also return with state-meet experience.
The Pioneers also return five wrestlers who came within one match of making state last year, finishing fourth at district - seniors Rex Foulk (152); juniors Michael Luna (112), Nathan Perkins (171) and John Frost (215); and sophomore John Newman (125).
And Rolen insists the Pioneers have the second-best heavyweight in the district in junior Jared Carr, who placed fifth at district as a sophomore.
Oregon City sophomore Tyler Winslow (103) and Pioneer junior Andrew Kluever (145) also placed at district a year ago, as the Pioneers finished a close second to West Linn.
The Pioneers have a veteran at 130 in senior Shaun Snow, who is being pushed by his younger brother, sophomore Travis Snow, to hang onto his spot.
The Pioneers have a three-man battle going for the top spot at 189, with senior Charlie Owens, junior Nick Shafer and sophomore Mitchell Wilhelmi all in contention.
Juniors Frankie Lara and Shane Pace are battling it out at 135.
Senior Luis Lopez, a transfer from Gladstone, has earned the starting spot at 119.
'For the first time, we've got two good guys at every weight,' said Rolen. 'Those second guys are going to score a lot of points at district.'
'[Repeating as district champion] is not going to be an easy thing for us to do,' said West Linn coach Doug Samarron. 'I think Oregon City is the team to beat, because I think their numbers are greater than ours.'
The senior-based Lions are led by defending district champions Andrew Kim (112), Prescott Garner (119), Brandon LaDick (140) and Lane Locke (160).
The TRL dual title will likely be decided on Wednesday, Jan. 10, when West Linn and Oregon City go head-to-head at Oregon City.
The Pioneers begin league competition tonight at Lake Oswego; they entertain Clackamas next Wednesday.