With increased numbers and valuble leadership, the Riverside Pirates wrestling is gunning for the rest of Class 3A this season.
With two-time state champion Brigham Hansen ready to make it No. 3, Riverside assistant coach Richard Rockwell thinks this years club can make a run at a district championship.
Usually the team with the most wrestlers wins the district championship, he said. They are able to pick up the lower placing points when everyone else runs out of guys.
Rockwell also said this is the first year in quite some time Riverside will be able to field a full lineup, plus have enough wrestlers to form a junior varsity, which is incredibly important for program growth and stability.
With 24 kids out this year, three are returning state tournament placers. Along with the state champ Brigham, his brother Briton Hansen placed fifth at 152 pounds last year. Gustavo Madrigal, a sophomore, is the other returning placer. He was the third-place finisher at 103 pounds his freshman year.
Rockwell said the older Hansen, Brigham, is the heart and soul of this years team and is the undisputed leader, but doesnt carry out the role vocally.
Hes a real lead-by-example kind of guy, Rockwell said. Everyone looks at him and says, If Im going to be a state champ, I have to do what he does.
Brigham will stay at 189 pounds, where he overwhelmed the state field on his to the title last season, but Briton will be moving up a couple classes and is projected to wrestle at 170 pounds.
Hes gotten a lot bigger and stronger, Rockwell said of the junior Hansen. Hes capable of being great, and hes better technique wise.
The wiry Madrigal dazzled his opponents with his quickness and surprising strength last season, losing just two matches the entire year. Unfortunately for him, one of those losses came in the state semifinals against eventual champ Kyle Johnston of Gold Beach.
Madrigal lost that match by one point, 5-4, but won his next match via fall and made it clear he was one of the best in the state by hammering Reedsports Anthony Halstead, 9-1, in the third-place about.
Hes ready to come back and win a state title, Rockwell said.
Filling the gaps for Riverside this season is a group of veterans, newcomers and a combination of the two. At 215 pounds, Harley Orcutt will rejoin the club after not wrestling since his freshman year.
Orcutt, the Pirates leading rusher on the fotball team this fall, has been working out with Brigham Hansen and Rockwell said the work is really paying off for the senior.
He didnt like cutting weight when he was younger, and that was why he didnt wrestle, Rockwell said. But at 215, he doesnt have to cut weight so he decided to come back and fill the void.
Orcutt was a district placer his freshman year.
Riversides schedule will prepare them for the district and state meets in late February. Along with the traditional home meet, the Riverside Rumble, the Pirates will go to the Oregon Classic and a tournament in Tillamook. Theyll get a shot at some Class 6A wrestlers from Grants Pass on the coast, Rockwell said, which will be a great measuring stick to tell them where they stand.
With the Rumble, there will be a dual meet format the first day, Jan. 7, with the regular tournament format Jan. 8. Rockwell said with the Oregon Classic being moved, its going to cut down on the amount of teams at the meet due to other meet commitments, but he said it should still be competitive.
Interestingly enough, Riverside has never won the Rumble. They have finished second twice.
The district tournament will be held in a different time zone this year, in Nyssa. While the kids are used to all the travel in the Eastern Oregon League, he really wishes Umatilla would find a way to put wrestlers back on the mat.
We would have a rival to wrestle again, he said.
Umatilla would also host districts if they were to bring the program back, which is another plus for the Pirates.
Rockwell thinks this years team can be competitive from a team standpoint, rather than just individually, but definitely realizes what the heart of wrestling really is.
It coes down to who is the toughest, he said. Were very dedicated and progressing along. Were looking really good.