The Pioneers are loaded and ready for Cougar, Lion, Cavalier and Bruin

With a youthful lineup, the Oregon City Pioneers have their work cut out for them if they are going to defend their regional team title and snag a team trophy at the 2012 Class 6A State Wrestling Tournament.

The Pioneers tied for fifth place at state last year and they have three state place-winners - including two state champions - returning. But they've got a youthful lineup, with only five seniors on their entire roster.

'Nobody sees us there right now, but that's our goal,' said Oregon City junior Kyle Sether. 'Top four at state….

'It's not going to be easy and it's going to take a team effort, with everyone contributing. It's going to take some younger guys stepping up. But I think it's doable, if we work hard at practices.'

The Pioneers return six regional place-winners from last season, including Sether (103) and senior Jared Groner (HWT), who were state champions.

Both wrestlers have ambitious personal goals.

'My goals are to go undefeated, break the school records for most wins, most pins and most pins in a row again, and defend my title,' said Groner.

'To go undefeated and obviously to win another state title,' said Sether, who will wrestle at 113 this season.

Sether is off to an 8-0 start, with five wins by fall in competition through Dec. 14.

Groner has already come up short on one of his goals. He lost to Barlow's Mick Dougharity, last year's state runner-up at 215, 8-6, in a tri-dual meet held last week with the Bruins and David Douglas at Canby.

But Groner still has a shot at his other goals. Through competition Dec. 14, the Pioneer big man was 7-1, with six falls.

Groner set school records for most wins (42), most pins (34) and most pins in a row (15) last year.

The Pioneers return a third state place-winner in junior Parker Folliard (126), who placed fifth at state at 112 last season and fourth at state as a freshman.

'My goal is to be in the finals and be a state champion at 126,' Folliard said.

Folliard said of his team's prospects this season, 'We've got juniors and sophomores who've been wrestling their whole life and I think we can be successful, even without having very many seniors.'

The Pioneers also return state participant Tanner Fischer (140), who placed fourth at regionals; and regional placers Devin Poppen (106) and Landon Martinez (152). Fischer, who is only a sophomore, moves up to 160. Poppen, another talented sophomore, will wrestle at 106, where he hopes to improve upon last year, and advance to state.

Martinez, a senior who this fall quarterbacked Oregon City's football team to one of the Pioneers' most successful seasons in school history, plans on earning a spot at state at 152 or at 160.

'We've got some holes to fill, so we may not be that strong of a dual-meet team,' said Oregon City coach Roger Rolen. 'But we should be a pretty good tournament team. All six of those guys should be competitive at state, and we've got some other guys who've got the potential to do well.'

Rolen said he likes what he's seen from juniors Michael McCoy (195) and Jacob Hagler. Both were linemen who, along with Groner, helped make the Pioneer football team successful.

And Rolen says he's got some talented freshmen who could help fill some holes in his varsity lineup in Hayden Bearden (132 or 138) and Ryan Bergerson (120 or 126).

He also likes what he's seen from freshman Caleb Greer, who'll give the Pioneers tremendous depth at heavyweight.

The Pioneers (129.5) were impressive last Saturday, when they finished not far back of McNary (169) and Lebanon (132.5), in third place, at a 10-team tournament hosted by Liberty.

'McNary and Lebanon both had near full lineups of 24 to 28 wrestlers,' said Rolen. 'We had five weights where we didn't have anyone and we still took third. We're competing, and we're improving every week. These guys work their tails off in practice.'

Poppen (106), Sether (120), Folliard (126), Martinez (170) and Groner (285) all won titles at Liberty. Fischer (140) and sophomore Michael Griffin (170) both placed second. Greer won three matches, after dropping his opener.

Rolen expects the Three Rivers League dual-meet title chase to be a dogfight, just like it was last year, when the Pioneers (4-1), Clackamas (4-1) and Canby (4-1) tied for first place.

'Our league will be a battle,' said Rolen. 'Clackamas and Canby will be tough again, and West Linn's getting better. I think they'll be right up there….

'We're going to have to get pins where we can and win some matches we're not supposed to [to have a shot at the title].'

Rolen says that because of their youth, his Pioneers are not expected to repeat as Three Rivers League/Mt. Hood Conference regional champions. They scored 279 points and edged David Douglas (277) and Canby (269-1/2) for the regional team title last season.

'David Douglas and Barlow will be tough,' said Rolen. 'But we're still shooting high. Our goal is top two.'

The Pioneers got a look at David Douglas, Barlow and Canby last Wednesday, when they met two of those teams in dual competition at Canby. They met their match in Barlow, losing 51-24, while they handled David Douglas 45-30.

Next up for Oregon City is the rugged 32-team Pacific Coast Tournament, scheduled Dec. 28-29 at Hudson's Bay High School.

The Pioneers begin league dual competition on Thursday, Jan. 5, when they entertain Lake Oswego. They meet Clackamas on the road on Jan. 11. Clackamas stunned Oregon City on Jan. 12 of last year, winning 45-22 at Oregon City, and snapping an Oregon City league win string at 21 consecutive matches.

Oregon City has won at least a share of the TRL dual title over the past four seasons.

'Winning the league dual championship is going to be tough,' said Folliard. 'But if our younger guys practice hard and wrestle hard, I think we'll have a shot at getting that [district dual-meet] title.'

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