The Indians return nearly every wrestler from last season and will be looking to shake things up in the state tournament again this year

PIONEER PHOTO: CONNER WILLIAMS - Molalla senior Ben Pruitt (top) works an arm bar against an opponent during the Estacada Invitational Tournament last season.
Head coach: Nathan Smyth, fourth season

2017 Class 4A state tournament recap: The Indians qualified five wrestlers for the state tournament after a solid showing at the Special District 1 tournament. Returning sophomore Maximus Tate (113) was the lone Indian to place as he took the district title with an 8-3 decision over Corbett's Jarrett Graff. The then-freshman then went on to take second at state with spectacular first and second rounds; in the first, Tate took on Jakob Allen of Douglas/Camas Valley and made quick work as Tate secured the pin in 1:15 to move onto the quarterfinals. Tate's effort in the quarters was even greater as he thumped Crook County's Jesse Gore for a 59 second pin to move him into the semis, where things got a little tougher for the freshman. Tate was able to keep the momentum going, however, and beat Marshfield's Frankie Harlow by a 10-6 decision to earn his way into a chance at the state title. Tate took on Siuslaw junior Richard Huff and ended up falling in 1:42, but took home the second-place title and a 23-8 record.

Senior Ryan Mount (145) earned a quarterfinal berth after taking second place in league, where he lost to Estacada's Justin Drury by a one-point decision in the championship match. Drury would go on to take third at state. Mount pinned Yamhill-Carlton's Tabor Magnusson in 3:33 in the first round, but lost to Marshfield's William Jantzer by a 15-5 decision to move him into the consolation round and hope for third. Mount then beat Douglas/Camas Valley's Landon Gerrard by a 6-0 decision to move him into the third consolation round, where he fell in the second round to Tillamook's Caleb Werner, who went on to take sixth. Mount ended his junior season with a 31-5 record.

Senior Ben Pruitt also qualified for state in the 145-pound class after taking fourth in league. Pruitt, however, drew no. 1 seed Jake Porter of Sweet Home in the first round and couldn't do much as Pruitt fell in 21 seconds to move him into the consolation bracket. Pruitt then took on La Grande's Hayden Shafer and fell in 2:24, ending his junior season with a 21-11 record.

Junior Dustin Asher (106) qualified for state with a fourth-place finish at districts after pinning Scappoose's Colton Frates in 2:57. Asher took on no. 3 seeded Kody Koumentis from Marshfield in the first round and took the match to three rounds, before falling in 4:24. Asher, perhaps taking out some frustration, then pinned La Grande's Logan Sandoval in 27 seconds in the consolation first round to make his way toward the outside of the bracket. He eventually fell to Marshfield's Richard Rayburn, however, in 2:42 to end his season with a 24-8 record.

Seniors lost: 1 – Jarett Gago (170) – Gago finished his senior season with a 32-6 record and a fourth place finish at the Special District 1 tournament, earning him a spot at the state tournament. Gago, who moved up from the 160 class his junior year to 170 his senior year, beat McLoughlin/Weston McEwen's Kaden Kilburg in the first round of the state tournament by a 19-11 major decision, moving him into the quarterfinal round, where he fell to Douglas/Camas Valley's Carter Dahl, who would go on to take third place, by a 5-0 major decision to move him into the consolation bracket. Gago then pinned La Grande's Christopher Woodworth in 2:32 to keep things going and hope for a shot at third place, but fell to Tillamook's Fabien Niemi in the third consolation round by a 10-4 decision.

Key returners: Sophomore Maximus Tate (113), Class 4A second place and Special District 1 first place; Senior Ryan Mount (145), Special District 1 second place; junior Dustin Asher (106), Special District 1 fourth place; senior Ben Pruitt (145), Special District 1 fourth place; senior Justice Davidson (126), Special District 1 fifth place; senior Wyatt Perkins (152); Special District 1 sixth place; and junior Emmett Smyth (160), Special District 1 sixth place.

Season outlook: The Indians return all but one wrestler from last season, including four state qualifiers that will look to again make the trip to the Veteran's Memorial Coliseum. Head coach Nathan Smyth said he believes he has ten wrestlers who are capable of making the state tournament, and that he is expecting to see tournament champions as a result.

Molalla will have the great opportunity of hosting the Special District 1 Super Regional State Qualifier tournament this season on the weekend of Feb. 9, which is Smyth's fourth with the group of freshmen that he has been with since he took over the program. Smyth said he expects to see big things out of last year's all-stars, along with some younger wrestlers in freshmen Brady Laccino and Brandon Harrington; sophomores Bo Edwards, Justin Lengele, and Hunter Beck; along with junior Caleb Taylor. He said the team has been labeled a "third period team, meaning coaches don't like going into the third period with [them]." Smyth's hardcore offseason workouts that focus on CrossFit and other high-intensity conditioning drills will likely continue to push other teams into long rounds as they excel at conditioning and controlling the pace of matches.

The Indians will also look to push for more wrestlers in the upper weight classes in the coming years, particularly from 170 and up. Last season, then-sophomore Logan Newton wrestled in the 285-pound class and showed some potential, though he was forced to forgo his junior football season after a vehicle accident over the summer caused severe injuries.

First meet: Estacada Invitational; Saturday, Dec. 2 at a to-be-determined time (most weekend tournaments begin around 9 or 10 a.m. with weigh-ins a couple of hours before).

Conner Williams
Sports Reporter/News Contributor
503-829-2301 ext. 341
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