by: SUBMITTED PHOTO Braden Krellwitz takes on an opponent at the Newberg Tournament last week. He is one of four returning state qualifiers for the Lions this year.

There's plenty of reason for optimism around West Linn's wrestling room this season. The Lions boast one of their largest and deepest teams in a number of years and, early in the season, they are ranked 10th in the state.

West Linn currently has nearly 60 kids out for wrestling this year and goes at least two-deep with talented competitors in the majority of its weight classes.

The Lions are also returning four previous state qualifiers in Grant Morril, Braden Krellwitz, Michael Skoczylas and Ryan Harman.

Harman took second in state last year at 171 pounds. He is currently wrestling at 182 for the Lions but coach Doug Samarron said he could drop as low as 160 this year.

All three of West Linn's other returning state qualifiers are all currently wrestling in a similar class.

Morril and Skoczylas are at 132 and Krellwitz is currently at 138 but is expected to drop down.

In the middle weights, the Lions have a logjam of talent.

"132 through 180 we're loaded. We're not sure where everyone is going to end up but that's a good problem to have. These guys will all sort it out themselves," Samarron said.

West Linn is a bit thin in the lower weights but has some potential standouts.

At 106 pounds, Joey Donovan returns.

"He really knows how to wrestle we just wish he was a little bigger. He's barely cracking 100 pounds right now," Samarron said.

Freshman Ethan Staley should also make an impact this year. He was an eighth grade state champion last year and could wind up at 113 pounds this year and potentially be a state qualifier.

Rico Diaz and Michael Mutschler will both fill in at around 120 followed by the team's glut of talent at 132. Along with Morril, Skoczylas and Krellwitz is sophomore Colin Cubbage who will battle for a position.

At 145, freshman Tim Harman has been impressive early on, going 2-1 in the team's first tournament of the year at Newberg and will be challenged at the weight by Trent Porter.

At 152 pounds the team is looking for a big year from Sam Nicholson, the youngest of four brothers who have all wrestled.

"He might be the toughest of all four which is the way it should be with youngest brothers," Samarron said. Freshman Ryan Anderson will also be solid at 152 pounds.

Senior Jake Poska will fit in at 160 pounds and also had a strong first tournament at Newberg, going 2-1.

"He's a senior who's finally getting his shot and that's exciting to see a guy who's paid his dues and it's good for the younger kids to see," Samarron said.

Tyler Chay sits at 170 pounds for West Linn along with Roland Lester, Adam Roethe and Jake Kent who are all solid for the Lions.

Along with Harman, Elijah Eaton will wrestle at 182 pounds early in the season and is one of the team's toughest wrestlers.

His brother Ellis Eaton, along with Garrett Harmon and Jon Messman are all currently wrestling at 220, giving the Lions plenty of depth there.

And at heavyweight, sophomore Noah Bagley is currently dealing with a foot injury and hasn't been weight certified yet but could make a huge impact for the team once he recovers.

West Linn went 2-1 in three dual meets at the Newberg tournament.

West Linn gave up 12 points worth of forfeits in each match but beat Sandy, a top-10 team in 5A 35-28.

The Lions then fell to a very strong Tillamook team 31-26 before bouncing back to knock off Tualatin by 10 points.

For the tournament, West Linn wrestlers went 23-13 with 11 falls.

The Lions will wrestle a very competitive tournament schedule again this year and will compete in perhaps the toughest region in the state.

West Linn has just two home dual meets this year and they are against the team's toughest competition in the region, Oregon City and David Douglas.

But the Lions will be battle-tested by the end of the year and could be primed for one of their most successful seasons in a number of years.

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