Thursday, December 28, 2006
By BEN MCCARTY
News staff writer
December 6, 2006
Call them the anomaly.
While most of the coaches and athletes have not known quite what to expect from the Mt. Hood Conference and have been nervous and even a bit apprehensive about switching to the quicker more athletic league from the Intermountain Conference, the HRV wrestling team is anything but.
In fact, they may be the only team at the school to be disappointed to be making the switch to the Mt. Hood.
“As far as competitiveness, the Intermountain Conference is one of the toughest conferences in the state for wrestling, so from that perspective we’re a little disappointed because we want to see the best,” Hood River Coach Rich Polkinghorn said.
“(The Mt. Hood) has more numbers but we can compete with these guys.”
Senior heavyweight Alex Titus headlines the returners for the Eagles as a returning state qualifier and the lone Hood River wrestler pre-ranked in his weight class in the Mt. Hood.
The team has also assembled a veteran-supporting cast behind Titus, including John Phillips, Corey Miller, Cameron Kiyokawa, Lucas Mondragon, Sean Baker, and Joe Johnson.
In addition to putting together a veteran squad on the mat, the team has also assembled a veteran coaching staff for the group, including new assistant Trent Kroll who comes aboard at HRVHS after several years as head wrestling coach at Centennial High School.
“Its nice having such a great staff with guys who eat and breathe this sport,” Polkinghorn said of the coaches who will be joining him in instructing the team this season.
The team got its first competitive action of the season at last weekend’s Hermiston invitational, which featured four other teams, including Burns High School, the top ranked 3A team in the state.
Despite missing the previous week of practice, the Eagles finished second as a team behind Hermiston, and defeated Burns along the way.
Junior Brandon Gass recorded an upset of Burns’ Dallon Swindlehurt, the No. 6-ranked 3A wrestler in the state, while Baker finished the day at 4-0 while beating two ranked wrestlers.
Johnson took Hermiston’s Randy Larson, ranked No. 2 in the state, to overtime before falling 10-8.
Miller also established himself as a force to reckon with this season when he earned the fastest pin of the day by putting an opponent down in 25 seconds against Walla Walla.
Gass, Johnson, Lucan Mondragon, Cameron Kiyokawa and Miller all ended the tournament with a 3-1 record and all recorded two pins during the course of the tournament.
Titus was not at the meet due to taking the SATs, but believes that the performance shows what the Eagles will be capable of this season.
“Everyone works really hard,” he said. “When everyone in the room is working as hard as you want to work, its good motivation.”
Titus also wants to return to state competition this year, and is excited to see how he and his teamates stack up in the Mt. Hood.
“I think it looks promising for us,” he said. “The last couple of years we have had a really young team and this could be the year where everything starts falling into place for us.”
Baker, a sophomore, is looking forward to putting in the work to get Hood River to the district championships, and to hopefully get himself to the championships at 130 pounds.
“I want to work extra during practice and out of practice like running, working out, and eating right,” he said. “To be the best you have to take that one step more.”
With several years of battling some of the top teams in the state during IMC competition under their belts, the Eagles hope that taking the extra step will propel them to a conference title.
“We are excited about having kids who want to be better and who want to work to be better,” Polkinghorn said. “That’s the kind of thing that gets coaches excited.”