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Winter sports preview: Wilsonville wrestling

Two returning state qualifiers to lead Wildcats


by: JEFF GOODMAN / FILE - Justin Hamilton (top), a state qualifier at 195 pounds last year, returns to lead the Wilsonville wrestling team this season. Above, Hamilton competes during a league meet at Sherwood in January.There are only two returning state qualifiers on the Wilsonville wrestling team this year, but that fact masks the experience and promise that coach Jason Milham sees on his roster.

Last season, several other members of the program appeared capable of earning bids to the Class 5A championships but either sustained untimely injuries or fell painfully short at the district meet.

The upcoming campaign, it seems, is their second chance.

“There’s a lot of potential,” said Milham, who is entering his seventh year at the helm. “I’m excited to see the team get on the mat. There are always some young guys in the mix, but we have a lot of juniors and seniors. I am comfortable putting these guys on the mat. I think some of them can start to have the success they haven’t had previously.”

As a group, the Wildcats will attempt to improve upon last year’s 8-13 overall record, which included a 4-3 tally in the Northwest Oregon Conference. They didn’t capture any district titles last season, and their five state qualifiers combined to win just three matches at the OSAA tournament.

The extent to which Wilsonville is able to grow depends in part on the efforts of senior Justin Hamilton and sophomore Tristan Greco, the squad’s two returning state qualifiers.

Hamilton went 1-2 in the 195-pound bracket at last year’s 5A meet after placing third at the NWOC finals, while Greco snagged a state berth with a fourth-place district finish at 120.

Eligible returner Matt Lucero, who earned a state bid at 113 last season, is not on the roster this year, Milham said.

But there are several other athletes who will contend for spots in the state tournament after disappointing finishes in 2012-13.

For senior Colin Cubbage and junior Colton Veenker, it’ll probably take better luck in the health department. Cubbage was a 138-pound standout in his first year after transferring from West Linn, but his season was cut short by an ankle injury. Veenker also flashed his potential before coming down with pneumonia late in the year.

“There’s nothing you can do about that,” Milham said.

But the same couldn’t be said for the wrestlers who competed at the district meet but were unable to capture top-four finishes.

Wilsonville junior Matthew Taylor was fifth at 106. Tony Munoz, now a sophomore, was fifth at 285. Then-sophomore Austin Warr was sixth at 145. Wildcats senior Sam Garrison (220) also came close to nabbing a state bid.

“The big thing is experience,” Milham said. “The more time you have on the mat and the more matches you have under your belt, the more you’re used to wrestling in close situations. It’s all about taking advantage of your opportunities.

“Tony, who wrestled exceptionally well as a freshman, has a kid on his back but then the kids beats him in the next round. Matt Taylor had the number-one seed on his back in the first round and the kid was able to get off his back. The difference is experience.”

Meanwhile, the program has welcomed two Vancouver (Wash.) Skyview transfers in senior Eli Day and sophomore Josiah Day. The brothers competed in last year’s Southwest Washington district championships at 145 and 138, respectively.

Milham said they’ve contributed to the positive environment in the wrestling room.

“It’s a matter of putting it all together,” he said.

***

AT A GLANCE

WILSONVILLE WRESTLING 2013-14

Coach: Jason Milham (seventh year)

Last year: 8-13 (4-3 in the NWOC); sent five wrestlers to the state meet

Key athletes: Justin Hamilton, Tristan Greco, Colin Cubbage

Key losses: Adam Buck, Alec Slaney, Matt Lucero

First home meet: 7 p.m. Dec. 19

Outlook: State qualifiers Justin Hamilton and Tristan Greco return to lead an experienced team that features several wrestlers whose postseason prospects last year were dampened by injuries or imperfect performances at the district meet.




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