Wa-Hi grapplers prep for opener

WaHi assistant wrestling coach Clayton Hudiburg oversees the Blue Devil wrestlers running before Wednesday’s practice. The Blue Devils open the season with the Bob Mars Invitational on Saturday.

WaHi assistant wrestling coach Clayton Hudiburg oversees the Blue Devil wrestlers running before Wednesday’s practice. The Blue Devils open the season with the Bob Mars Invitational on Saturday.

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Area prep wrestling previews

Mac-Hi

Oregon Class 4a

Greater Oregon League

Head coach

Beau Chester

Key departures

Brayden Moller; Tavis Hodgen; Jesus Saldana; Chandler Fortune.

Key returners

Cole Scramstead, sophomore; Blake Yensen, senior; Jensen Jones, junior; Vince Roff, sophomore; Alex Shaw, sophomore.

State competitors last season

Moller; Hodgen; Scramstead.

Season opener

Enterprise Tournament, today.

The team:

“We are very excited about a great sophomore class and a good freshman class this year,” head coach Beau Chester said. “With our youth we are looking forward to competing at all levels and getting better each week.

“These guys have worked very hard to this point and we have high expectations for the season. Our overall numbers are a bit down this year because we just do not have very many upper classmen.”

— Beau Chester

Pomeroy

Washington state

Southeast 1B League

Head coach

Brian Slaybaugh

Key departures

Wyatt Jenkins; Ryan Smith; Austin Reisdorph.

Key returners

Clayton King, junior.

State competitors last season

Jenkins; Smith; Reisdorph; King.

Season opener

Potlatch Tournament, Dec. 14.

The team:

“It’s kind of a building year,” head coach Brian Slaybaugh said. “Most of the kids on the team have wrestled. We have two new kids who have moved into our school who have never wrestled. I only have two freshmen. It’s kind of a building year.

“We kind of changed our practices up a little bit because we don’t have the experienced kids we’ve had the previous years. We’re doing a lot more drilling of the basics. But things are going well. We still have kids who have wrestled a couple years so we’re expecting big things out of them.

“(Clayton King) has kind of stepped up as one of the team leaders. He knows what it’s like to wrestle in the Tacoma Dome. We only have two seniors on the team, so we look to some of those younger kids to step up as team leaders. He’s one of those that has stepped up.”

— Brian Slaybaugh

Waitsburg-Prescott

Washington state

Southeast 2B League

Head coach

Lanny Adams

Key departures

Gabe Escalante

Key returners

Tristan Newman, sophomore; Trenton Kitsleman, senior; Kavin Kukykendall, senior.

State competitor last season

Newman.

Season opener

Liberty Invitational, Dec. 14.

The team:

“They just bring experience to it,” head coach Lanny Adams said of his upper classmen. “They’re not new wrestlers. They’ve all got three (or more) years of wrestling experience. They come from a good foundation.

“We always start out each year covering the basics as a refresher more than anything else. Just like any sport, you have to go over those basics so they break any of those bad habits before they become a habit.

“I saw that there’s some areas we need to improve on. I saw a lot of my wrestlers with heavy feet — they weren’t up on their toes and they were standing flat-footed. We still have some groundwork to do with them.

“(Tristan Newman) is a lot more focused. Last year at state, I think he was pretty overwhelmed being a freshman and seeing the whole Tacoma Dome covered in wrestling mats. He came in wide-eyed and wrestled well. He acknowledged he made some mistakes but he’s working hard to correct that stuff.

“I’m seeing a lot of potential for some state contenders. I’m looking forward to the season more than anything else.”

— Lanny Adams

Compiled by Alex Field

WALLA WALLA — The Walla Walla wrestling team is pinning down its varsity roster after graduating 15 seniors from last year’s squad.

The Blue Devils feature a wealth of youngsters on this year’s team, assistant coach Clayton Hudiburg said, which means this year’s crop of seniors must step up.

But Hudiburg said the upperclassmen are more than ready to be leaders.

“They are definitely important, particular in (practice),” Hudiburg said. “There’s a reason those older kids end up doing real well and it’s all development in the practice room. (Younger wrestlers) come in and watch how they drill, how they practice — the tempo they keep, the intensity they keep.”

Hudiburg said seniors Noe Gonzalez and Will Babbitt will be counted on to replace the void left by the graduating class.

Wa-Hi will be missing two key pieces from last season, in state competitor Logan Reardon and state alternate Zane Henderson.

But Hudiburg has high hopes for Gonzalez and Babbitt and said with the right attitude, both could reach the state meet this season.

“In lots of other regions, those two would have been state competitors for us last year,” Hudiburg said. “Both of them dealt with some injuries last year. If they stay healthy all season and (stay) on the right path, we’re expecting big things from them. They’ve definitely got state placer written on them, they’ve just got to make it happen.”

With so much overhaul from last year’s roster, Hudiburg said the Blue Devils are missing competitors toward the top of the 14 weight classes.

“We’ve got a few holes weight-wise, so I’m not sure if we’ll fill a full squad top-to-bottom,” he said. “We graduated a lot of bigger guys last year, so we’re a little thin on that top side.”

Luckily, the Blue Devils will only be docked points at dual matches for not filling out a full squad. As for tournaments, which the team is keying on, Hudiburg said the Blue Devils roster will be sufficient.

The Blue Devils boast a young roster this season with a plethora of talented sophomores. Lucas Rassbach, who placed fourth at district last season, Justin Evans and Andrew Granchukoff are three youngsters poised to make a splash, Hudiburg said.

“I think our core group of guys are a hardworking, eager to improve group of guys,” he said. “It will be interesting to see how those sophomores kind of develop throughout this year. They’ve got a year of high school under their belt to see if they can kind of take a step forward for us and show us some promise for next year.”

This weekend, the Blue Devils kick off the season with the Bob Mars Invitational in Kennewick. Hudiburg said the tournament offers his wrestlers a good chance to gauge their progress so far this season.

“It’s going to be a pretty tough tournament right off the bat,” he said. “It’s a good way to gauge where they are at and what kind of work they maybe need to put in.

“For our younger kids, I think it’s a good chance for them to see how they fit in at that varsity level,” Hudiburg continued. “Are they ready to compete and win some matches there (or) do they need to spend a little more time developing at the JV level?”

The Bob Mars Invite kicks off at 9 a.m. on Saturday and will feature wrestlers from Chiawana, Pasco and Southridge.

“Our conference is always tough,” Hudiburg said. “All four teams always have tough kids. If you make the state tournament out of region, you have a pretty good chance of placing.”

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