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The district championships aren't the main focus for Scappoose, who is looking to make the top four at state

by: JOHN WILLIAM HOWARD - Scappoose senior Isaiah Goodrich tries to pin his opponent during the Indians' dual with Tigard at the Northwest Duals on Dec. 28. Goodrich, at either 182 or 195 pounds, will be an essential piece of a team who head coach Jim Jones says has a solid chance to finish in the top four at the state championships.Though it seems only yesterday the Indians made their trip out to La Grande to kick off the wrestling season, the year is drawing to a close, with only a handful of events remaining. Following a double dual with Tillamook and Rainier on Feb. 13, the Indians are headed to the Cowapa League championships in Astoria on Feb. 14, in preparation for the upcoming regional tournament at Gladstone High School on Feb. 21-22.

The league tournament isn't the focus in the final stretch of the season, but rather a tune-up for the more important regionals, and the team is in fine shape as they try to peak at just the right time.

The Spotlight got a chance to sit down with Tribe head coach Jim Jones and assistant coach Nick Byrd, discussing the 2013-14 season, some highs and lows and the team's chances at the state tournament in the dying days of February.

Q: Is there anyone who has stood out and been a surprise success story this season?

Jones: If you go through our lineup, it's a lot of kids who have put in the time and effort and are willing to work hard and lift hard, which I think is great. As a coach, that's what I want. It's good for your program to have kids that come in, work hard and improve and other kids can see that the difference is, that kid worked really hard. He lifted hard, he put in time, effort and work, and it paid off for him. It's hard on a program when kids that are just talented and they don't put in the effort and work hard and then they get the reward because it's confusing. As a coach, I want those kids who put in the effort and the work and they get the payoff for it.

Byrd: I guess for us, there's no surprise success stories, really. Most of the kids have put in a lot of the effort, and it's not like they've just come out of nowhere. It's been over the last two to three years that they've gotten better.

Q: On the wall of the mat room, you have “Crack” standings. What's that about?

Jones: Last year – or the year before, when coach Bryd came on board – he decided to do what's called the “crack trophy.” What the crack trophy is … there's things you can do to earn crack points, there's things you can do to lose crack points. Earning crack points, you keep going through a really tough match. There was a point at which you could have folded and given in, or you could turn it up and go a little harder. Sometimes it's on the mat stuff and sometimes it's off the mat stuff. You can lose crack points, too. You throw a baby fit after a loss, you'll lose a crack point. You blame the loss on the official or you blame it on somebody else, you'll probably lose a crack point. There's classroom stuff that people have lost crack points for, and there's stuff that they've gained them for.

Byrd: It's good because it gives the kids a sense of accountability. There's never 'oh, I shouldn't do this, I shouldn't do that.' When a kid loses a crack point, it's 'yeah, I should not have been whining. I should have gone harder.' They take a lot of pride in it, which is good.

Q: Have you seen a change in off-the-mat behavior since creating the contest?

Jones: I don't know that it's been a big change, but it's been a lot easier as coaches call attention to those things and to confront it. They know. They'll come off after a match sometimes and go 'I just lost a crack point, didn't I?' Yeah, you did. They have a pretty good sense of what it is. I think as far as toughness on the mat, it's brought a lot of that out. Behavior off the mat, I think that we've been pretty good. We've got a pretty good group. Whoever wins gets a trophy at the end of the year, which is like a hodge-podge, thrown together... it isn't fancy. It's fun. Kids like it, we like it. They strive to get those points.

Q: How does this team compare to the title team from 2010?

Jones: That group was a very talented group. This group, I think – and I'm not down on that group. They were great to work with and did great things on the mat – they're just different. They're probably more walk-in-the-door physically talented. This group has had to work for it a little bit more. I would say that's the most of it. They're both really great groups and have some great individuals. I do think this group has had to work for it a little bit more, and I'm hopeful that it pays off in the upcoming weeks, because they have put in a lot of time. We've carted those kids all over the place.

Q: At the beginning of the season, you had some holes in the lighter weights. How have you filled those holes?

Jones: We have some freshman kids that I would say have stepped up a bit. They're young, they came in pretty inexperienced and they've improved quite a bit. They've still got quite a ways to go, but they seem to have the drive to keep doing it. I'm pretty optimistic for what their career will be like down the road. They've definitely stepped up.

Jones: Colton Bush, he started out the year at 126 and he was kinda butterball-ish. Now, you can see his stomach. He's got stomach muscles, actually. He's down at 113, and he's improved a lot. He wrestles well, he scrambles well. He's in an appropriate weight class for himself. Not just for wrestling, but he's at a better physical weight for himself, just as a person.

Byrd: He wasn't thinking that he was going to wrestle (at 120 pounds), but every week he kept getting a pound lower, a pound lower and now he's making 113 without cutting at all.

Jones: And feeling good about it. He's in good shape and he's stronger and just feels more confident and he's better.

Q: What will it take to do well at the state tournament?

Jones: Hopefully the whole group will have exceptional performances. I feel like we've built a history of ending strong, and there are some things we do in our program to try to make that happen. It doesn't happen every year, but you have these little things you do to try and peak at the end. I don't know that we have anyone specific. There's kids that we're definitely counting on to score us points at that tournament, but I don't know that there's one.

Byrd: We have a lot of guys that we're relying on to score us points. I could list off 10-12 guys that I think should contribute at the state tournament.

Jones: It's a long road to get there, though. Lots of things happen along the way.

Q: What are you expecting at the Cowapa League championships?

I would say there’s the likelihood that (Tillamook and Scappoose) will compete for first and second there. With there not being any qualifiers coming out of that tournament, it's kind of an afterthought, just another opportunity to wrestle. As far as winning – and maybe it's wrong for me to feel this way – I'd like to win that tournament, but it's not a big deal. Regionals, that's important because that's where you get qualifiers to get to the state tournament, and that's what matters in wrestling. Regionals matter because that's how you qualify and get there, but I'm not real hung up on winning the Cowapa League district tournament.

Byrd: I'd like to win. I like winning, not losing.

Jones: I'd like to win any of them, but it's not our focus. In training right now, we're not peaking for that tournament, we're peaking for regionals.

Byrd: If it comes to regionals and we're still celebrating the district tournament, we're probably not doing something right.

Q: What can you expect from the state tournament?

Jones: Our biggest thing is that we want a trophy at the state tournament, we want to be top four at the state tournament. That's our number one goal. When we did goal setting last spring, that was the most consistent thing was to trophy at the state tournament. For us, to beat Cook County is pretty unrealistic at this point. At any level in the state, I don't think anybody is prepared to beat Crook County, but for us to be a top four team was a realistic goal for us last spring. That's been our main focus, is to get our team in position to be a top four team.

Jones: We're going to need to perform well. It's like anything like that, you need to get a little lucky too. I think we're in a good spot where that's a realistic goal. If we wrestle well, things go our way, we're able to manage adversity well, I think that's realistic.

Byrd: You're never given a trophy at the state tournament. We still have to earn it.

Results from the Cowapa League championships, which start at 10 a.m. on Feb. 14, will be available at www.spotlightnews.net later in the evening or in next week's edition.

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