Mac-Hi ready to hit the mats for 2011-12

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MILTON-FREEWATER - Mac-Hi is looking to reestablish its tradition as a wrestling powerhouse this season after placing 10th at last year's competition thanks to a string of injuries.

The Pioneers return five wrestlers that competed at state last season, and should be set to make a deep postseason run.

Senior Ryan Bullock, ranked No. 3 in the 152-pound class, returns from a campaign that saw him finish third at state after falling in an overtime heartbreaker in the semifinals.

"Just technically, he's so strong and fast," Mac-Hi coach Beau Chester said. "No matter what situation he gets himself into, he always gets himself out of it. He probably has more matches under his belt than the whole team combined, that's the kind of experience he's got."

On the opposite end of the experience spectrum is 170-pound senior Francisco Saldana. Saldana placed 5th at state last season and is ranked fourth in his class this season despite only wrestling since his sophomore season.

"He (Saldana) has just turned into an absolute animal," Chester said. "He's a natural athlete, just strong as an ox. I mean really strong and athletic.

"I think he could be a state champion this year, especially how he looks up here (at practice)," Chester said. "I mean he's just a go getter."

Junior Tavis Hodgen is ranked No. 8 at 120 pounds this season and qualified for, but did not place at state last season.

"He (Hodgen) has actually come in this year really, really strong," Chester said. "He's put on a good 20 pounds and he looks really good.

Chester said he expects Hodgen to wrestle at 144 this season.

His brother, senior Tayor Hodgen, is wrestling at 160 this season and is ranked No. 9 in Oregon.

"Taylor worked his butt off last year, and really improved," Chester said. "Probably the most improved kid we had last year, as far as working hard and just stepping up."

Junior Braden Moller is ranked No. 5 as a 152-pounder, but will likely move up a class to 170 this season.

"He's (Moller) really really, a technical wrestler." Chester said. "He wins a lot of close matches. This year we're looking for him to take that next step and start really dominating kids.

"This year he just looks like a completely different wrestler than last year, I think he could place in the top three at state," Chester said.

Mac-Hi faces off with Grant Union in Grant Union to kick off the season Saturday at 9 a.m.

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