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Theyve got experience and numbers

Mustangs hope to challenge Sherwood for the 2012 NWOC mat title

Sherwood, with most of the wrestlers returning from last year's squad that placed ninth at state, is the favorite to prevail in Northwest Oregon Conference wrestling this winter. But don't count Milwaukie out.

The Mustang wrestling program is on the upswing and Milwaukie coach Robert Lippi says he's got a number of wrestlers capable of making state qualifying.

'We got hurt by graduation, and we lost the Websters [Ansel Webster placed third at district last season] to Lakeridge,' said Lippi. 'But our program is getting stronger. Two years ago we had 22 wrestlers out; last year we had 31; this year we've got 42….

'It would be pretty hard to beat Sherwood, but we should be right up there near the top. If we're not top three, I'd be very disappointed. Our team goal is to win it.'

'Our team goal is district champs,' agreed Milwaukie senior co-captain Connor York. 'It won't be easy, but I think we've got a chance.'

'It'll be tough, but it's achievable,' said senior co-captain Brandon Clark. 'We have a good senior class, we've got numbers, and the people we have in our starting lineup are strong and dedicated. They know what they're doing.'

Milwaukie scored 210 points and finished third in the eight-team NWOC last season, finishing back of Sandy (301 points) and Sherwood (255-1/2).

The Mustangs return seven district placers from last season, four of whom qualified for the 2011 state tournament.

York (220) and Clark (138) are the top returnees. Both placed third at the Northwest Oregon Conference District Tournament in 2011.

'The two kids that placed above me have both graduated,' said York. 'One was state champion and the other was a state placer. My goal this year is to win district and place high at state.'

'The kid that beat me [at district], Paul Dodson of Sherwood, is back,' said Clark. 'But I've gotten better. I'm a one-sport athlete - wrestling's my only sport. I've wrestled my whole life and I train the year around.'

The Mustangs also return 2011 state-meet participants senior Nick Mertz (132) and junior Eric Lippi (152). Both placed fourth at district in their weight divisions last season.

Sophomore Breton Olen, who placed fifth at district at 145 as a freshman, returns tougher than ever. He'll wrestle at 152 or 160 this season.

Juniors Mitchell Ponnay (106) and Chase Blackwell (170) are back. Both placed in the top six at the 2011 district tournament.

'All of those kids should make state,' coach Lippi said. 'As should [senior] Brandon Walczak (182/220). And [seniors] Beau McIntosh (152) and Michael Young (182) have an outside shot.'

Lippi added, 'Francisco Romero still weighs over 300, but if he can get his weight down and wrestle, he'll go to state. And he'll do something when he gets there. He's tough.'

'We're hoping he'll come out,' Clark said of Romero. 'He'd help the team.'

The Mustangs begin NWOC dual competition this Thursday, when they play host to Parkrose.

The Mustangs meet Sandy on the road on Jan. 5, and they have an away meet with Sherwood on Jan. 19.

Building year

for Putnam

MILWAUKIE - It'll be a building year for Putnam wrestling.

The Kingsmen don't have a single senior on their roster and they have only one wrestler returning who placed at district last year. Junior Preston Russell, who placed fourth at 145 a year ago, is the lone returning placer.

Other juniors are Phillip Balgos, Joseph Larimer, Cory Olson, Moein Rezaei, and Trevor Schneider.

Putnam's 19-wrestler roster includes ten freshmen.

The Kingsmen entertain Wilsonville in this Thursday's Northwest Oregon Conference opener.