A season's worth of hard work and dedication will come to a head this weekend for local wrestlers as state-qualifying tournaments take place beginning today and wrapping up with Saturday's championship finals.
The two-day Class 6A District 4 Regional Championships will be hosted by Grants Pass High, with today's action opening at noon and Day 2 starting at 11 a.m. Saturday. Championship finals are tentatively set for 5:30 p.m. Saturday.
In action at the 6A event will be Southwest Conference teams Crater, Grants Pass, North Medford, Roseburg, Sheldon, South Eugene, South Medford and Thurston and regional foe Redmond.
The Indians are ranked No. 1 and are a decided favorite to win the regional, which boasts four of the state's top 12 teams. The others are Redmond (sixth), Grants Pass (seventh) and Crater (12th).
"It's quite a region," said North Medford head coach Nolan Harris. "I was telling our kids that if you can be top four in our region your goal should be to become a state placer because if you make it through our region, that just shows how tough you are."
The top four wrestlers at each of the 14 weight classes will advance to the 6A state tournament Feb. 24-25 at Memorial Coliseum in Portland.
Eagle Point High will host the 5A District 4 Regional Championships today and Saturday, with wrestlers first taking to the mats at 2 p.m. and then again at 9:30 a.m. Saturday. Championship finals are expected to start at 4 p.m. Saturday.
Fourth-ranked Churchill and fifth-ranked Eagle Point expect to battle for the team title, with 10th-ranked Bend also in the chase. The Eagles and Lancers have already seen each other a handful of times this season, with Eagle Point outdistancing Churchill by 50 points in team competition a few weeks ago at the Eagle Point Invitational.
"We've had our ups and downs this year, definitely," said EP head coach Kacey McNulty. "This is going to be the first time that we'll have everybody in our lineup the entire season. We have some pretty tough second guys, too, so hopefully they can come through and score some big points and qualify for the state meet."
The regional also includes Ashland, Marist, Marshfield, Mountain View, North Eugene, Springfield, Summit and Willamette.
Similar to the 6A tourney, the top four wrestlers at each weight will advance to the 5A state tournament in two weeks.
The Skyline Conference district tournament begins at 9:30 a.m. Saturday at Phoenix High, with the top four placers advancing to the District 3 Regional Championships next week at Hidden Valley High. Saturday's championship finals tentatively will start around 5 p.m.
Besides the Skyline teams, next week's regional includes Brookings-Harbor, Douglas, North Bend, Siuslaw, South Umpqua and Sutherlin. The top four finishers at each weight advance to the 4A state tournament in Portland.
This weekend and beyond, top-ranked Henley will be the team to watch at the 4A level. Mazama (No. 7) and Phoenix (No. 14) are the only other ranked Skyline teams entering district.
"They're ranked first in the state and they deserve it," Phoenix head coach John Farmer said of the Hornets. "We're just going to go out there and wrestle the way we've been practicing. I think we can get some good matches and get some good kids through to the regionals and then take it from there."
Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, email@example.com, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry