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Wrestling team takes aim on a repeat title


Pioneers still among the top contenders in the Northwest Oregon Conference

The Sandy wrestling team could easily dwell upon all the guys they lost from last season’s Northwest Oregon Conference championship squad. That crew was highlighted by guys like Kyle Bateman, who won the state championship in the 170-pound weight class, and Brandon Mowery, district champion and state semifinalist at 132 pounds. Those guys graduated, so no one would blame the Pioneers if they lamented their situation, but that’s not who they are.

The Pioneers bring back several wrestlers with experience in the state tournament, and that is what they are focused on.

Sandy will be well-anchored at several weight classes, but particularly in the lower weight divisions where they bring back everyone from last year. Sophomore Donovan Morrell and junior Kyle Grahn each advanced to the district championship match at 106 pounds a season ago and both got their feet wet at state. Grahn will likely wrestle at 113 pounds this season, especially in dual-meets, so that both see the mat.

Richie Rich, who wrestled at 113 pounds last year, is also back. Rich made it to the district championship match where he suffered a neck injury and had to be airlifted to the hospital. The injury wasn’t serious and he was back on the mat a few days later competing in the state tournament.

At 120 pounds, Sandy was the class of the district in 2012-13. Jon Morrell won the district crown over teammate Dakota Peterson, then advanced to the state quarterfinals. Both Morrell and Peterson are juniors this year, and one or both of them could wrestle up, depending on the opponent.

Sandy will likewise be solid a few weight classes up from Morrell and Peterson at 160 pounds. C.J. McKinnis fell one point short of winning the district title before advancing to the state quarterfinals in that division last season.

Senior Devin White qualified for state as a junior with a third-place finish in the 170-pound district bracket. He will try to improve upon that this time around, especially with the departure of Bateman.

Brothers Jeremy and Andrew Funk took first and third in the district at 182 pounds to earn their trips to the Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Jeremy, now a senior, followed up his district title with an appearance in the state semifinals in February.

In the upper weights, senior Carlos Deker-Martinez will lead the charge for the Pioneers. At the district tournament last year, Deker-Martinez caught everyone’s attention when he upset No. 1 seed Hunter Sexsmith from Parkrose in the second round of the 220-pound bracket.

Top to bottom, the Pioneers could be deeper than they were last season, despite the wrestlers who graduated. They should again be the favorites to win the NWOC championship, though Liberty could give them a run.

Sandy will get its first indication of where it stands when the team opens the season with a tournament at David Douglas on December 6.

Sandy and Liberty square off on January 9. The winner of that dual will likely control its own destiny in the race for the NWOC regular-season trophy.