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The Cougars won six of nine contested weight classes and added a win by forfeit at 125 pounds in Saturday's 34-17 home win

PMG PHOTO: JIM BESEDA - Clackamas Community College wrestler Marckis Branford (top) scored a 16-5 major decision over Corban's Joe Foster at 141 pounds in the Cougars' 34-17 win Saturday at CCC's Randall Hall.
Clackamas Community College's Greg Guzman scored a first-round pin at 149 pounds and Tommy Mommer added a third-round pin at heavyweight, leading the Cougars to a 34-17 dual meet victory Saturday over Corban University at CCC's Randall Hall.

Jason Shaner's 18-3 technical fall at 133, Marckis Branford's 16-5 major decision at 141, and Romeo Manue's 15-4 major decision at 184 tacked on significant bonus points as the reigning NJCAA national champion Cougars ran their dual record to 4-0.

Cougars coach Josh Rhoden thought his team's performance was good, but not great.

"I think we had some kids who got better today, but my initial reaction was that I was disappointed a little bit, just because we have room for improvement," Rhoden said. "We're seeing improvement, so maybe it's just that I'm not seeing it as fast I was I want to see it."

After Corban spotted Clackamas a 6-0 lead off with a forfeit to Eddie Daniel Jr. at 125, Shaner, Branford, and Guzman dominated the next three bouts to give the Cougars a 21-0 lead.

The NAIA Warriors of Salem then got on a roll with Cody Knott pinned Clackamas' Caiden Cohen at 157, Cooper McCullough scored a 22-4 technical fall over Beau Bradley at 165, and Levi Perry won by fall over Dax Bennett at 174, cutting the Cougar's lead to 21-17.

Manue, the freshman out of David Douglas High School, restored order with his 15-4 major decision over Noah Sickles.

Clackamas then closed out the match with Kyle Richards winning by an 8-2 decision at 197, and Mommer put the exclamation point on the dual win when he opened a 13-3 lead before pinning Jack Farley with two seconds remaining in the second round at heavyweight.

"We made weight cuts at 165 and 174 that hurt us," Rhoden said. "We were trying to make it a conditioning battle, and our conditioning failed us because of our weight cut in both those instances, so that's frustrating.

"Otherwise, those guys did great. They really did. We have guys that are really scrapping hard, including some freshmen that are new to this, and it's still the first term."

High expectations

Rhoden, the former Clackamas wrestler now in his 14th season as the Cougars head coach, has built his program into a national power, yet is constantly pushing to raise the bar.

"You think of where you'd like them to be in March, and we still have three months until then," Rhoden said. "So, I've got to take some things with a grain of salt. It's just that I'd like to demolish everybody, every time, and it's not always that way.

"I guess the expectations are high, too, because you used to take a 21-20 win and be high-fivin' each other, so … it's fine. I'd just like it to be a little bit crisper. Some things we're doing in practice worked well tonight and then some things we just didn't do a very well. So, I guess I've got a job still."

Despite the almost constant turnover is inherent in small-college athletics, Rhoden's program attracts some of the top junior college talent in the nation.

When came out with the latest NJCAA rankings last week, Clackamas had wrestlers ranked in nine of 10 weight classes.

Shaner, the sophomore from Hood River who started the season ranked No. 2 at 133 in the preseason poll, moved up to No. 1 and is currently 13-0 with two pins, five technical falls, and two major decisions.

Branford, a freshman 141-pounder from Easton, Pa., is ranked No. 2 and is also undefeated at 12-0 with a team-high five pins, one technical fall, and three major decisions.

Also for Clackamas, Mommer (14-1) is No. 4 at heavyweight, Bradley (8-2) is No. 5 at 165, Manue (13-4) is No. 5 at 184, Bennett (8-8) is No. 8 at 174, Richards (11-5) is No. 8 at 197, Daniel (9-3) is No. 10 at 125, and Guzman (11-4) is No. 10 at 149.

In the team rankings, Western Wyoming holds down the top spot, with Clackamas and North Iowa Area CC tied at No. 2, North Idaho at No. 4, and Northeastern Oklahoma rounding out the top five.

The Cougars expect to make some changes to the lineup as some wrestlers continue to cut weight and other return from injuries, most notably returning national qualifiers Zeth Brower at 125 and Marty Margolis III at 149.

"I think we have the roster that is the best roster if we can get everybody healthy and on the mats at the same time, like we did last year," Rhoden said. "Obviously, we had one of those years last year where we had everything working for us at the right times.

"If we can stay healthy and on the mats, we definitely have the group to contend for a national championship. I mean, the last three or four years, we've been right there, and I think we have as good a roster with the right combination of guys to be there again."

The Cougars return to action Friday when they face Umpqua Community College in Roseburg. Then they travel to Nevada for Sunday's Reno Tournament of Champions, followed by a 12-day break over Christmas.

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