Brimming with confidence after the best 4A season in school history, the HRV wrestling program has its sights set on more important things than winning a district title in 2002-03.
Despite losing four state qualifiers to graduation, last year’s Mt. Hood Conference champions are in search of an even greater accomplishment this year as they join the feared-and-revered Intermountain Conference.
“As a team, we’re going to train to win a state title,” head coach Mark Brown said. “We’re not as worried about winning a district title as we are about getting our top seven or eight guys to state. The idea is, if you can get numbers, you can win the whole thing.”
The Eagles sent a school-record 11 wrestlers to state in 2002, and will be hard-pressed to match that total due to some inexperience in the middle weight classes. But Brown and his staff believe that each of the remaining seven state qualifiers — and even a few more — have a more than realistic chance of coming out of the IMC.
“We’re going to depend a lot on our seniors and juniors to put us in a position to win at state,” Brown said. “If we can just get our guys in the top three at district, we will have a good chance to win a trophy.”
Brown said he isn’t certain that this year’s team has enough depth to win district — especially in the IMC, which placed four teams ahead of HRV at state. But he believes that the talent and experience at some weight classes will put his team in a position to win a few tournaments.
“We’re more of a tournament team than a dual-meet team this year,” he said. “The big deal with most of the IMC coaches is to get their kids to state. That’s what we’re going to focus on this year.”
Brown hopes the program will benefit from the leadership of its six seniors — Josh Van Ek (119 pounds), John Harvey (140/145), Trent Shelton (152/160), Jacobe Krizman (171), Nate Dethman (189), and Tommy Owyen (275) — five of whom qualified for state last year.
He will also benefit from a strong, experienced junior class that includes state qualifiers Rocky Level (140) and Nigel Bond (189/215), along with returning varsity wrestlers Jason DeHart (152/160) and Jorge Lujano (275).
“We’ve got the talent in some areas to score a lot of points,” Brown said. “I could see both Tommy and Jorge placing at state. Jacobe has the potential to be a top guy in his class. Nigel has the right attitude and work ethic to win a state title. Rocky, Trent and John have all been to state and know what it’s all about. We just have to sell the kids on the idea that it’s possible.”
Brown said his biggest concern this year is, “are we satisfied?” Was winning the district title last year enough or do they want to keep on going?
“Our guys need to keep their focus on the end goal, and not worry if we lose to a Hermiston, Pendleton or Crook County. These are the best teams in the state, and there won’t be any nights off.
“But if we realize that we’re actually doing ourselves some good by competing against the big boys early on, we could surprise some people when district and state roll around,” he said.
The Eagles begin their dual-meet season on Dec. 3 with a home match against former MHC rival Reynolds. The first IMC competition will take place on Dec. 19 in Hermiston against the conference favorite Bulldogs.