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The Kingsmen opened the season with only four wrestlers with varsity experience, but have enough to cover 12 of 14 weights

PAMPLIN MEDIA: JIM BESEDA - Putnam senior Jonny Hernandez pinned Scappoose's Trevor Jackson with 58 seconds remaining in the second round of the 152-pound semifinals at the Dec. 21 Gladstone Invitational.Putnam High School wrestling coach John Telesmanich had barely settled into his mat-side chair before one of the Kingsmen's newbies went from his feet to his knees to his back.

Total elapsed time: One minute, six seconds.

"Right now, we're really young," Telesmanich said during a break at the Dec. 21 Gladstone Invitational tournament at Gladstone High School.

When Telesmanich says the Kingsmen are "young," what he means is that they're going through a rebuilding phase, but who isn't?

Honestly, there are few teams outside of Roseburg and Crook County that don't have at least one or two holes in their lineup.

In the Kingsmen's case, they have enough wrestlers to fill 12 of the 14 weight classes, but they have to concede forfeits at 120 pounds and 126. And of the 12 wrestlers in the lineup, only four -- Justin Heger at 138, Jonny Hernandez at 152, Nathan Keymolen at 138, and Keegan McKay at 132 -- came into the season with significant varsity experience. The others are either incoming freshmen or sophomores who had never wrestled before this season.

So, yes, the Kingsmen are young.

The good news is that all of Putnam's newcomers had won at least one match before the end of December.

"You just got to build on those small victories, keep things fun, hope the kids get excited, and it keeps them motivated for another week," Telesmanich said. "One thing I like about these kids is that they're tough. They still have a lot to learn, but they are tough, so that's pretty awesome."

One drawback to having so many first-year wrestlers is that Telesmanich has to go slow in the practice room.

"We have to teach moves, teach situations, go over rules, and do things we haven't had to really talk about for the last six years because we had so many veterans," he said. "Now, we talk about edge-of-the-mat rules and how you don't stop wrestling because you're on the edge -- little things like that keep popping up that we have to talk about."

Putnam had mostly mixed results at the Gladstone tournament, the Kingsmen absorbing a few more lumps than they dished out.

Hernandez led the way for the Kingsmen, scoring three consecutive wins by fall over Molalla's Dylan Wynn, Scappoose's Trevor Jackson, and Jefferson's Tariq Armstrachan to win the 152-pound title and improve his record on the season to 8-0.

Among the other Putnam highlights, Keymolen placed third at 138, Oliver Lundgren finished third at 195, Adam Chamberlain was fourth at 160, Heger placed fourth at 138, and McKay finished fourth at 145 as the Kingsmen placed fifth in the 10-team field with 79 points.

In the girls' tournament, Putnam's Cheyenne MacKenzie went 3-0 with three pins to place first at 145 pounds, and Matumaiv Taale went 2-0 with two pins to take top honors at 190.

"What we're trying to do with this team is show improvement," Telesmanich said. "It would be a really huge win for us to take four or five to state, but two or three of them probably would have to be rookies for that to happen. If we get them to state in their first year, then that helps build next year and the year after that.

"The way I see it, the future is looking pretty good."

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