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Wrestling has sights set high

Rangers were snubbed in the opening rankings, which has them poised to prove everyone wrong
by: Loren Nibbe Estacada's Shane Licari will be one of the team's top wrestlers this season.

Entering his first season as head coach of the Estacada wrestling team, Jimmy Grochowsky was feeling pretty good. His team was returning four state placers including Garrett Macdonald, who was the No. 1 ranked wrestler in his class.

Unfortunately for Grochowsky, he learned over the summer that Macdonald was transferring schools and his hope for a state title took a slight hit. Fortunately for the Rangers, however, confidence remains high.

The Rangers still return seven wrestlers who appear in pre-season rankings, led by Donny Wendlund, Shane Licari and Spencer Bradford.

Wendlund is a sophomore who took sixth place at the state meet last year in the 112-pound weight class, but will wrestle at 120 pounds this season.

Licari will be a senior this year, and he also finished in sixth place last year, and is the No. 2 ranked wrestler in at in the state at 126 pounds.

Bradford also is a senior who placed at the state meet as a sophomore before a shoulder injury ended his junior season early.

In addition to those three, junior Jake Davidson and sophomore Brian Mosier are ranked fifth in their weight classes.

'We're definitely not rebuilding this year because we have a pretty mature team with a lot of different things going on with injuries and stuff,' Grochowsky said. 'We're expecting to have a really good season, contending for the district championship and possibly a regional championship.'

Aside from losing Macdonald, the Rangers also will be without Jackson Hicks and Steven Pinto, both of whom graduated last season. Hicks is wrestling at Southern Oregon University.

The Rangers did add a transfer from Gresham High School, Sebastian Sanchez, who fills a hole on the Rangers roster at the 106-pound class.

While the Rangers don't appear on the ranking of the state's top-10 teams, Grochowsky says it's all the motivation his team needs.

'I like it that way,' he said. 'They got a chip on their (shoulders) right now and I like people thinking we're not going to be tough.'

This year's large turnout will help the Rangers this season. Typically Grochowsky said the team sees about 40 wrestlers at the start of the season, but loses 10-15 before Christmas. This season the team started with 28, but will finish with all 28 by his estimation.

'We're an in-your-face team and we like to work hard,' he said. 'We've got a good group of freshmen and some really tough sophomores, and we're trying to turn these boys into responsible, respectable young men.

'I demand a lot out of my boys and I want them to own up to that stuff because our wrestling program has a great tradition and we've always been a really tough team,' he said.

One part of that tradition that Grochowsky says has been missing, however, is the community support.

'I really want to get the community supporting our team and to show up and be excited about wrestling,' he said. 'Our goal is to get people back on board and to fill the bleachers every time we have a home duel.'

The Rangers next home duel is at 6:30 p.m. Dec. 29 against Banks.