by: BILLY GATES/THE PIONEER - Madras' Ian Oppenlander (white shirt) grabs the leg of Jarred Dupont in a drill during practice Monday. Both wrestlers are expected to help lead the team. Blend of young, veteran tough guys could lead to state tourney qualifiers

For Madras High School head wrestling coach Ron Oliver, winning a bout isn't predicated on who knows all the flashy moves — it's about who works the hardest in the practice room.

That is the point he has been driving home during the first week of practice, and with a mix of crafty veterans and brand-new wrestlers, Oliver said things have been good in the early stages.

"We've got guys here that are going to stick with it," Oliver said. "We had a pretty tough preseason, and none of the guys backed out, so we've got guys that are tough enough."

Injuries will set the Buffs back a little bit early on, especially in the upper weight classes, with Michael Bauman's arm injury set to keep him out until January. Bauman wrestled at 182 pounds during the regional meet, where he placed fifth to just miss qualifying for state.

The Buffs will be just fine in the light and middle weights, however. Most of the returning wrestlers will fall somewhere in those divisions.

"We still won't be much of a dual meet team because we'll have trouble filling every weight class," Oliver said. "The older guys need to get their timing back down, and that will take a couple weeks."

Monday was the first time the wrestlers were on the mat working on shots and other moves. Oliver used the first week of practice as a conditioning period, mainly to jump start the weight process and get the wrestlers near competition weight. Oliver said most of the guys haven't been on the mat in about eight months, so getting as much conditioning time as possible is crucial.

Returning to the team this season, and guys that Oliver expects to be in the hunt for district and state appearances, are Ian Oppenlander, Sam Flores, Jarred Dupont, Bryce Vincent and Ian Fording.

"Right in that middle area is where our key guys are going to be," Oliver said. "They'll be our tough guys, and hopefully they'll get tougher as the year goes on."

Dupont, the team's only returning state tournament placer from last year's team, expects to move up a weight class from 120 pounds to 126. His approach to making the move falls in line with Oliver's message.

"If you work hard, good results are going to follow," Dupont said. "I've got a tough year ahead of me, that's for sure. I'll be going against bigger and stronger guys."

Dupont, a junior, placed fifth at 120 pounds in last year's 4A state tournament and has been to state both his freshman and sophomore years. As one of the leaders on this year's team, Dupont said the older guys will have to bring the younger guys along with encouragement and support.

"You can't do much more than just help the younger guys, and not put them down," he said. "We're going to have something different in the room all the time."

Flores, Vincent and heavyweight Miguel Sevilla each advanced to the state tournament last year, but did not place. Flores wrestled at 113 pounds at state last year, as did Vincent.

"We've got a good upper class to help the young guys," Oliver said. "They are a team-oriented bunch. In the past, we've had guys run some younger kids off because they beat them up so bad. I don't think we'll have that problem this year."

For this season to be a success in Oliver's eyes, the end goal is twofold. One, he wants to keep the younger guys healthy and on the mat so they can get experience. And two, he wants to get his big guns to the state tournament.

"This will be more about individual goals, I think," Oliver said. "We're going to have the kids set their goals, and hopefully they are able to meet them."

The White Buffalos will open their season Dec. 7, at Mountain View High School in Bend, taking part in the Central Oregon Officials Open.

The Buffs will host the White Buffalo Classic, the team’s only home tournament, Jan. 25, at Madras High School.

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