by: JEFF GOODMAN / PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP - Alejandro Sandoval signs a letter of intent May 5 at Canby High School to join the Southern Oregon wrestling program. Sandoval took second place in the heavyweight division at the state tournament this year.The outcome of the heavyweight title bout at this year’s state tournament still weighs on Alejandro Sandoval. It probably always will.

But because the Canby High School senior can’t do anything to change the result, he’s doing the one thing he believes will help him move forward.

He’s going to keep wrestling.

“I just felt like I had to do more than second place,” he said, recalling his heartbreaking 6-5 overtime loss to Centennial’s Michael McGuire. “That wasn’t enough for me. I wanted to go back for more.”

Sandoval recently decided to continue his wrestling career at Southern Oregon University in Ashland, where longtime coach Mike Ritchey has built a perennial NAIA powerhouse.

He will join a roster that features top athletes from throughout the region, including former North Marion state champions Jake Stigall and Lucas Randall. His heavyweight unit figures to include South Umpqua product Chance Crane and Sweet Home native Zach Gill.

“These guys are a lot bigger,” he said. “I’m working out, running and getting in shape so I’ll be ready by the time I get to college.”

Sandoval also considered Pacific University and Linfield College but was drawn to SOU because of its rich wrestling tradition and its variety of academic options in the business field. The Raiders have posted top-five finishes at five of the last six national championships, taking fourth place this past season.

Southern Oregon gives Sandoval a chance to extend a wrestling career that didn’t start until eighth grade. He grew up playing soccer, following in the footsteps of his two older brothers, but was encouraged by a friend, Noel Hygelund, to test his skills on the mat.

The turning point for Sandoval came during his sophomore year of high school, when Cougars wrestling coach Jeremy Enrusd inserted him into the varsity lineup.

“That got me motivated to get better and better,” he said.

Sandoval made rapid improvement over the next two years, dedicating himself to a strenuous weightlifting regimen and developing his array of techniques.

The workouts helped Sandoval earn first-team all-league honors and second-team all-state recognition as a senior lineman on the football team.

He tallied 55 tackles, 4.5 sacks and two forced fumbles as a defensive tackle this past season. He also served as Canby’s placekicker, making 44 of his 46 extra-point attempts (.957) and going 3-for-3 on field goals.

Sandoval, who qualified for the OSAA wrestling tournament as a junior, realized a special senior campaign might be in store following his performance at the North Bend Coast Classic, which came shortly after he propelled the football team into the state semifinals.

“Once football ended, we had a week of (wrestling) practice and the second week we had a tournament,” he said. “I wasn’t in shape. I only had a week of practice, and I made it to the finals.”

That outing was the first of many highlights for the heavyweight standout. He won the Larry Owings Invitational tournament Dec. 21, defeated Pendleton’s P.J. Schubert to win a Reser’s Tournament of Champions title Jan. 25 and earned a state bid with a second-place finish at the Cougars’ regional tournament Feb. 22.

Sandoval then cruised through his first three matches at the Class 6A tournament to set up his rematch with McGuire, the regional champion.

With the title bout still tied at after a 1-minute overtime session and two 30-second tiebreaker periods, Sandoval entered the ultimate tiebreaker period in the offensive position. McGuire escaped to seal first place after receiving a controversial injury timeout.

“I wanted to win it,” Sandoval said. “I felt I could’ve done a little bit more. I want to go back for more now and take it to the next level.”

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