Molalla wrestlers eye league title
Coach: Nathan Smyth
Key losses: Ben Pruitt (145-pound state qualifier), Ryan Mount (145-pound state qualifier), Wyatt Perkins (152-pound state qualifier)
Key returners: Maximus Tate (126-pound state qualifier),
Outlook: The Molalla wrestling team is in a constant state of growth, both in terms of numbers and skill. Last year, the team had four members qualify for the state tournament in three different weight classes, including returning 126-pound junior Maximus Tate.
Unfortunately, the team graduated the other three qualifiers last year, which included 145-pounders Ben Pruitt and Ryan Mount, and 152-pounder Wyatt Perkins. There will need to be big performers stepping in to fill those shoes. Luckily, head coach Nathan Smyth believes he has the group of athletes to do just that.
The team captains this year include Tate, 106-pound senior Dustin Asher, and 152-pound senior Emmett Smyth who will lead the way for a squad low on senior leadership. Molalla only has five seniors wrestling, and 12 upperclassmen on a roster of 22 competitors.
"We're still a very young team, we're still growing," Smyth said. "When I took over the program, I had six wrestlers. We've now got 22 on the roster. It takes a while to build, this will be our first year that we will have a middle school program that we will have in play, so that's going to help us with our feeder program too."
While Smyth is expecting good things from his captains, and constant improvement from his entire squad, he expects a few other members of his team to place at districts and make it to the state tournament at the end of the season.
"I think we will see great improvements and possible state qualifiers (in) (152-pound senior) Celab Taylor, (160-pound junior) Hunter Beck, (and 170-pound junior) Bo Edwards," Smyth said.
Molalla competes in Special District 1 (SD1), one of four leagues at the 4A level and has faced several nearby, familiar foes in the past. This year, the league gets a bit of a facelift. Corbett, Crook County, Gladstone, Madras, and Scappoose are now out of SD1, while North Marion and Woodburn move into the space vacated.
The two schools might be a new to league, but they are not total unknowns to the Molalla wrestling program.
"We've wrestled Woodburn a couple of times over the years, they've come to our tournament," Smyth said. "We've gone to North Marion's duals a couple of times. They're both pretty strong programs with good depth. It'll be interesting to see how we play out."
The expectations on the season are high. But that's nothing new for the Molalla wrestling team. Smyth and his coaching personnel are expecting the boys to put in the work, and let the results speak for themselves.
"I expect a lot out of my boys, both physically and mentally," Smyth said. "I have the highest standards of sportsmanship. I expect them to be young men. We as coaches demand respect from them, we don't put up with a lot of horseplay. We still have a good time, but there's a time and a place for that. When we're there to practice, we're there to practice."
First Meet: Tuesday, Dec. 4 @ Gladstone High School (after the Pioneer goes to press)