West Linn wrestlers ready to challenge in Three Rivers League again
The West Linn wrestling team is ready.
The Lions have their fair share of stars, including reigning state champion Cael Brunson, 2018 state runner-up Ricky Bell and returning Three Rivers League champion Ethan Goff.
They also have a strong collection of front-line talent that should make their varsity lineup one of the best in the Three Rivers League.
But do they have the depth to get over the top at the TRL district tournament? That one has yet to be answered.
"I think we are in competition with a few others like (Oregon City) and Tualatin for the title," said West Linn coach Doug Samarron. "It will probably be close again. We most likely lack the numbers to secure anything at this time, but we do have the quality."
As to the team's leaders, Brunson returns for his junior season as team captain after winning two straight TRL titles and the Class 6A state crown at 145 pounds last year.
"There is no one with a bigger target on their back than Cael … (but) those things aren't in his head," Samarron said. "If you want to beat Cael, you're going to have to make him wrestle your way. Very few have succeeded. (He's) a true competitor. Cael has an extraordinary ability to raise his performance when the whistle blows."
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Bell — a junior team captain — returns to chase another TRL championship and his first state crown in 2019-20, that after winning the district crown at 106, and later, finishing second at state. He'll wrestle at 120 this season.
"Ricky Bell (has the) skills and potential to be on the top of many podiums this season," Samarron said. "Ricky has a wealth of experience and knowledge. … A fierce competitor, Ricky leads by example."
Goff won the TRL district crown at 113 last year and then advanced to the state quarterfinals, but he's aiming even higher this season.
"Ethan (had done) a lot of offseason training and conditioning. E.J. is ahead of schedule," Samarron said. "He is a very quick, cat-like wrestler that is exciting to watch perform. He brings an aura of mental toughness and heart to every battle."
Other returning district placewinners for the Lions are: sophomore Jordy Tawa at 120 (he was second at 106 in 2019); junior Cole Peters at 170 (he was second at 160); junior Cade Miller at 182 (he was second at 182); junior Michael Kearney at 126 (he took fourth at 113); senior Jack Wall at 138-145 (he was fifth at 138); and senior Joe Betty at 285 (he was fifth at 285).
"Jordy will contribute to his team's success in many ways this year and should make it to the postseason again," Samarron said, adding that Peters (a team captain) is the "real glue to this team. (He's) not only a wrestler, but a leader," while Miller (a team captain) will use last year as "a steppingstone in his quest to be number one. He has trained hard in the offseason every season and is now reaping what he has sowed."
The Lions will also look to sophomore Andrew Shelofsky at 106, sophomore Aaron McCoy at 113-106, freshman Logan Owens at 132, freshman Justin Rademacher at 152-160, senior Cyrus Gray at 160, junior Jacob Quast at 170 and sophomore Cobie Daly at 195-220.
In addition, the Lions have added freshman Destiny Rodriguez to their roster at 145. In her young career, Rodriguez has already won a world title at the U15 World School Combat Games (in Budapest, Hungary, in June) and won gold in the 58-kilogram division at the Pan American Games in Villahermosa, Mexico (in September of 2018).
"(She is) one of our most prized, valued and respected people in the room," Samarron said. "She brings excellence, focus, confidence and big-time experience into each practice. Destiny is the most decorated wrestler to start a freshman season at WLHS ever. She will focus on girls competitions this year, but at times will cross over to compete with the boys."
Regarding the 2019-20 TRL race, Samarron said there are still questions to be answered.
"I would predict a district meet much like last year," Samarron said, recalling his team's runner-up finish to Oregon City in 2019. "We'll see. It will be entertaining for sure."
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