Tigers: Only thing remaining is a state title
The Newberg High School wrestling team has proved itself among the state's best teams this season, beating opponents by massive margins in dual meets and maintaining that dominance in tournaments throughout Oregon. Their reign of terror against Pacific Conference foes continued Friday and Saturday in the district championships.
The Tigers competed in 12 of the 14 weight classes and sent a total of 18 boys to the state championships – a school record.
Newberg boys heading to the state championships — slated for Friday and Saturday at Memorial Coliseum in Portland — include Malaki Amaya (106), Nicky Olmstead (106), Ayden Garver (113), Christopher Strange (120), Harrison Womack (120), Micah Worthington (126), Charlie Evans (132), Price Pothier (132), Jonah Worthington (138), Joey Moody (145), Nolan Womack (152), Rowan Gallardo (160), Braden Baxter (170), Alec Love (170), Oliver Myers (182), Jordan Beaudry (195), Hunter James (220) and Connor O'Bryan (285).
Two girls – Sophia Redwine (100 pounds) and Hadley Massey (190) – qualified for state a week prior and will compete on the mat this weekend as well.
"You always think there's one or two more that you could have had, even with a number as impressive as this," NHS coach Neil Russo said. "It was great. We got some kids in that – on paper – weren't expected to be in there. It was everything you hope for and I think we were at our best for most of the (district tournament)."
Roseburg has the most wrestlers participating in state of any 6A team with 23. Newberg is second at 18, Sprague is sending 16 and Mountain View has 14. Those four teams – simply based on sheer numbers and talent within their lineups – have the best chance to win it all, Russo said.
If the state meet goes the way of the regular season, it will likely come down to Newberg and Roseburg for the team title. The Tigers could have multiple state champions across myriad weight classes and Russo said their focus must be on themselves rather than what other teams are doing.
"I don't think we have to be anything more than we've been all year," he said. "It's not like we have to be better than we've been, which in some cases is not even mathematically possible. We just have to be who we are and not worry about what anyone else does."
The performances of freshmen like Olmstead, Garver and Evans have anchored Newberg's lineup throughout the season and provided unprecedented depth for Russo's squad. The trio has a combined record of 129-12.
Seniors like Strange and Myers have been in this position before. Strange is the defending 6A champion in his weight class and Myers is 43-0 this season after losing the third place match last year.
Newberg's 2017-2018 team finished second behind Roseburg last season at state, losing by 28.5 points. It remains to be seen if its added depth this season will be enough to topple the Indians, who have won five consecutive state titles and 10 of the last 12.
"We have kids that have been there and kids that have been on the podium who know what it takes," Russo said. "But our young kids, not only do they have a ton of mat time, they've been around and seen this state tournament from the stands. All of these freshmen, they know, but there's no substitute for being there. When you're 14 years old it's a different experience, but these kids are wise beyond their years."
Russo said he wishes the girls' scores could be combined with the guys' at the state tournament, but it is a separate tournament for a duo in Redwine and Massey that "hasn't missed a beat" all season and works "extremely hard," he said.
Keeping track of 20 total wrestlers between the two tournaments is going to be a significant challenge for Russo. When all the dust settles, though, he's hoping the Tigers are hoisting a first-place trophy.
"From a coaching perspective, it's overwhelming," Russo said. "The first day, 6A is going to wrestle on nine different mats. When you're wrestling on nine mats and have 18 guys in the tournament, you could have four or five kids on the mat at the same time. That's a great problem to have, but it forces you to be extra organized as a coaching staff."
For more information on the OSAA wrestling championships, visit www.OSAA.org. Links to brackets and the full tournament schedule can be found on the home page in the upper left hand corner under the "State Wrestling" tab.
The first 6A session begins at 8:30 a.m. Friday and continues throughout the day, with championships beginning at 7 p.m. Saturday night. All matches will be held at Memorial Coliseum and spectator information is available at www.osaa.org/activities/wre/management.