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Quality not quantity for Pacer wrestlers

A 15-man roster might suffice in some sports but wrestling isn't one of them. However, that's a problem that the Lakeridge wrestling program has been dealing with for some time now.

Last year, things were really bad when just 12 kids turned out for the start of Lakeridge's wrestling season. This year, things were looking up a bit when 17 kids turned out for the sport. But two of them were knocked out with injuries, leaving just 15 wrestlers in the program.

Lakeridge wrestling coach Forest Marcum doesn't even think about quantity any more. It's all about quality and cultivating the talent that's on-hand.

'It's hard to score points when you don't have the numbers,' Marcum said. '(And) it doesn't feel good to lose because of forfeits … But we've got a good team aspect going. We just don't focus much on the team score.'

In a league meet against Putnam last week, it was demonstrated just how difficult things can be for Lakeridge in a dual meet. Lakeridge had a chance to be competitive since Putnam opted not to place anyone at the weights that the Pacers had originally planned to forfeit.

That meant that the meet was decided by the eight remaining matches. But the Kingsmen put their best wrestlers at those weights, and they won six of those matches en route to a 35-9 victory.

Marcum wasn't complaining, though. Instead, he applauded everyone's effort, especially Sam Anderson who registered the only pin for Lakeridge that night. That was an impressive achievement for the 171-pound Anderson, who is new to the program this year.

'He has a lot of natural ability,' Marcum said of Anderson. 'I see him doing pretty well this season.'

The team leader this year looks to be Jeff Hutchens, who won the 160-pound class at a tournament in Tualatin. He followed that effort with a loss to one of the top wrestlers in the state, but since then, he won dual matches against guys from Putnam and Milwaukie.

'Jeff is definitely our leader on the mat,' Marcum said of Hutchens. 'He's getting that quiet confidence that a good wrestler gets.'

Marcum figures Hutchens will be a contender for a district title. But, if he stays at 160, he could end up wrestling against West Linn's Lane Locke, the defending district champion at that weight.

The coach is also seeing some good things from senior David Bartman (at 171 pounds) and senior Sean Howley (at 189). Plus, underclassmen Nick Wilkins (119), Zach Bailey (130), Jason Weiss (130), Taylor London (160) and Jeff Saporito (145) are also showing a lot of promise.

With St. Helens leaving the TRL this year and moving down to the 5A level, Marcum figures more opportunities have opened up for his team.

'It doesn't get any easier because St. Helens is gone. But hopefully we can take up some of that slack,' the coach said.

Lakeridge will be hard-pressed to finish higher than sixth place at this season's district meet, but Marcum is really only worried about solo performances.

'I'd like to send three wrestlers to state,' the coach said. 'It's possible for us to do better. A lot depends on the dedication (of the wrestlers).'

But dedication is not typically a problem for the kids who stick with a program that is struggling.

'Wrestling is a hard sell in Lake Oswego,' Marcum noted. '… What's positive, though, the kids I get are not only tough but they're really good kids.'