Forest Grove takes stock of its progress as the season approaches the halfway point

Fresh off Christmas break and roughly halfway through the prep wrestling season, Forest Grove head coach Frank Johnson is both encouraged by his team’s progress so far and apprehensive about its prospects moving forward.

Several of his young charges have made season-long strides on the wrestling mat, but with only five weeks left before the district tournament, Johnson knows that more progress is needed if the Vikings are to continue their recent run of success at the state level.

“Our new guys still show promise, but they are not where I hoped they would be at this point in the season,” Johnson said. “More guys are beginning to max out and that will pay dividends for them in the postseason. I am still optimistic, but more of them need to get a sense of urgency in terms of what they put into their preparation.

“The district tournament will be here before they know it, and we have lots of ground to cover between then and now.”

Forest Grove has been bolstered of late by a pair of underclassmen, with sophomore Christian Guerra and freshman Matthew Johnson each winning a pair of tournament titles at the Liberty Invitational on Dec. 20 and the Don York Invitational last Saturday.

Guerra ran his season record to 17-4 while capturing the 106-pound title at each tournament, and he has now won 12 straight matches. During that winning streak, Guerra has six victories by pin and has outscored his other six opponents by a combined score of 60-5.

“If Christian continues down the path he is on, he will be one of our rare three-time state placers. That will put him in an elite group,” Johnson said. “His family is very supportive and he is a very positive kid. He is already building some great memories.”

Matthew Johnson, meanwhile, has started his high school career by winning 21 matches in a row, including two tournament titles at 113 pounds over the holiday break.

“In terms of mental preparation and dealing with opponents’ wrestling styles, Matthew is probably the most mature freshman we have ever had in the program,” coach Johnson said. “He gets better every week and he continues to make adjustments that result in victories. He is off to a great start.”

In addition to those youngsters, seniors Ivan Mojica and Jake Kemper are also making big strides, with Mojica running his record to 18-3 this season and earning his first state ranking at 120 pounds.

The Vikings will be busy next week with a home dual against Aloha on Thursday, followed by the annual Bob Beisell Invitational at Forest Grove High School on Saturday.

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