With the prospect of facing perennial state powers Hermiston and Pendleton for at least the next four years, the HRV wrestling team is gearing up for its final season in the Mt. Hood Conference.
After the OSAA voted Monday to move Hood River Valley to the Intermountain Conference, the Eagles are poised to make the most of their final season of competition along Interstate 84.
“This is the best team I’ve had since coming to HRV,” head coach Mark Brown said. “We’re excited about the opportunity we have this season — not only in the Mt. Hood Conference, but in the state.”
Brown returns 12 MHC place winners from 2000-01, including district champions Rocky Level (119 pounds) and Jason Macioroski (171 pounds).
Level will wrestle at 130 pounds this year and may be forced to compete with David Posey — currently the team’s top 135-pounder — as he continues to drop weight.
“Our workouts have been pretty intense,” Brown said. “After a few weeks of this kind of exercise, all the water weight and excess body fat fall by the wayside. We’re starting to look lean and mean.”
Other top competitors for the Eagles this season will be 112-pounder Josh Van Ek and 160-pounder Jason DeHart, who competed at Nationals over the summer; Trent Shelton, who claimed fourth place in the MHC at 145 pounds and will wrestle at 152 this year; and Felipe Magana, who took second at 135 pounds last year.
Shelton will battle with Caleb Wold for the top spot in the 152-pound division, while Magana will jump up to 140 pounds and compete with senior Cody Cataldo for the number-one position.
One of the fiercest battles thus far has been at the 189-pound class, where junior Nate Dethman and sophomore Nigel Bond have been toe-to-toe in every match. Bond won the intrasquad matchup 5-2 last Friday night, but Dethman rebounded to beat Bond 2-1 in the finals of the Wahtonka Invitational on Saturday.
Another weight class that appears up for grabs is the 171-pound class, where two of the most intense competitors on the team — Macioroski and Jacobe Krizman — are vying for the top varsity spot.
Krizman took fifth place in the MHC at 160 pounds last year, and bulked up enough during the offseason to compete with Macioroski. The two went head-to-head at the intrasquad meet and were forced to go to overtime before Macioroski emerged with a 10-8 victory.
An intense battle is also being waged at 215 pounds, where Nathan Nash and Ray Muñoz appear deadlocked. Muñoz won at a close intrasquad match, but Nash —the fifth place winner at 215 last year — has proven over the years that he won’t back down.
Unlimited wrestlers (275- pound class) Tommy Owyen and Jorge Lujano are also very close to one another and may swap positions from meet to meet.
Brown said the MHC looks strong again this year, with five or six teams capable of winning the district title. Two-time defending champ Gresham will be right there along with Barlow, Reynolds, Centennial and HRV.
When asked about the impending reality of traveling to Hermiston, Pendleton, Crook County and others, Brown said he and his wrestlers are up to the challenge.
“The IMC will be a tough league for us, but we wrestle there every year and compete at every weight class,” he said.
The Eagles travel to Hermiston Saturday, and will begin their quest for a district championship with a home meet Dec. 13 against Gresham.