Pioneer grapplers send potent mix to regional

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MILTON-FREEWATER — Mac-Hi will be bringing a potent mixture of experience and youth to the Special District 2 regional wrestling meet in La Grande.

The Pioneers, who have accumulated a 10-4 dual-meet record this season, will be bringing 16 wrestlers to the meet slated to begin Friday at 4 p.m. and run through Saturday evening.

Brayden Moller (182 pounds) leads a class of four seniors that should all be favorites to qualify to the state tournament in Portland, while freshmen like Cole Skramstead (120) and Vince Roff (152) have already made a name for themselves.

“We have probably the best freshman class that we’ve had here in a long time,” Mac-Hi coach Beau Chester said of the 20-member-strong class. “Our sophomores and justiors — theres not too many of them, but they’re solid. And our four seniors, all four of those kids are really good.”

Mac-Hi’s seniors have been good indeed, compiling a combined 109-23 record this season.

Moller wrestled his way to a 30-3 record this season at 182 despite weighing in at 170 for dual meet purposes, but will be dropping back down to 170 for regionals and state.

He has been to state his sophomore year, but did not make the cut in 2012.

“He’s really turned it on this year,” Chester said. “This is the best year that he’s had. There’s no reason he won’t place, and I think he’s got a legitimate chance to win it.”

Other seniors include: Jesus Saldana (160, 30-8 this season), Tavis Hodgen (138, 33-7) and Chander Fortune (132, 16-5).

Fortune has qualified for state for two consecutive years but was limited at the start of this season by a knee injury.

Hodgen went to state last year as well.

Both wrestlers came within a win of placing at state, Chester said.

“I think every one of them (seniors) have actually won a tournament this year,” Chester said, “and they’re all kind of starting to come together. They’re starting to peak at the right time.”

But with so few seniors, Mac-Hi has relied heavily on juniors, sophomores and freshmen to fill its lineups.

And despite being cast into a sport typically dominated by more physically mature seniors, Mac-Hi’s younger grapplers have faired well.

Standouts include freshmen Alyx Shaw (126, 27-12), Skramstead (28-9), and Roff (23-16); sophomore Jeffery Jones (145, 27-6); and junior Blake Jensen (145, 20-9).

The top four placers out of each class advance to state at Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Portland. The 16-man brackets will be double-elimination.

Seeding for the regional meet will be determined during a seeding meeting today in La Grande.

Despite having one of the larger dual teams in recent Mac-Hi history, Mac-Hi isn’t likely to be able to compete for the team title, Chester said.

“Team-wise, with 16 kids, winning it probably isn’t going to be looking too good,” Chester said. “Crook County (Prineville, Ore.) will bring a full team (28 wrestlers, two in each class) and La Grande will be right there too, but there’s no reason why we shouldn’t get second or third.”

Special District 2 includes nine schools: all four Greater Oregon League schools, the aforementioned Crook County, and La Pine, Madras, Ridgeview and Sisters.

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