It’s an experiment that has true benefit and merit, but also one with a big hill to climb before permanent implementation throughout...
Many of the top high school wrestlers on the West Coast — including Phoenix's Eleazar De Luca and Crater's Chance Fahndrich — will compete in the Senior All-Star Duals Saturday at Southern Oregon University's Bob Riehm Arena.
The three-match affair pits teams from Oregon, California and Washington against each other in dual matches.
"With the kids who will be there, the people in the Rogue Valley get to see the best dual meet on the West Coast," said California team organizer Bert Van Duzer. "You don't have to drive all the way to Portland like you do for the state championships. It's a great thing for them to take advantage of."
Van Duzer and former Phoenix wrestling coach Harry Mondale were instrumental in starting the event.
The first match is at 2 p.m., pitting Oregon against Washington; California meets Washington at 4; and Oregon faces California at 6.
Tickets are $5 for students and $7 for adults. Kids under 6 get in free.
The matches can be viewed online at http://souraiders.nmtvsports.com.
The tournament is in its eighth year and has alternated between Shasta College in Redding, Calif., and SOU.
California dominated the first few competitions, when only it and Oregon were involved. Washington came along later. Washington was last year's winner and Oregon triumphed the year before at SOU.
The wrestlers are chosen by committees, said John Breuer, an SOU alum and former longtime Coquille coach who oversees the Oregon contingent.
"It's not necessarily what they've done this year," he said, "but what they've done throughout their high school careers. You might see a kid who's not a state champion this year but who has been consistently good over the past four years."
Oregon and Washington each have multiple classifications and state tournaments in each. There is no classification breakdown at California's state meet. Only champion is crowned at each weight for the entire state.
"Some of those kids have been through the wars," said Van Duzer, noting there are 40-man brackets at each weight and 1,000 matches over two days in Bakersfield. "In some cases, a kid has to win six matches to be a champion."
De Luca was a three-time state champion for Class 4A Phoenix and a four-time finalist. He helped recruit members of the Oregon team and will compete at 145 pounds. The Arizona State-bound wrestler was 155-10 in high school.
"He's a blue-chipper, a good kid," said Van Duzer.
De Luca will wrestle California's Christian Wathen of Orland. Wathen was the Northern Section champion. Against Washington, the Phoenix star will face Grant Steen.
Fahndrich finished second at the 6A state tournament recently, losing only to four-time state champion Brandon Griffin of Sprague.
Fahndrich will take on one of California's top entrants in Paul Yoo of Cypress. Yoo was third in the state this past season and sixth last year. Against Washington, Fahndrich will square off against Cole Schwartz.
Other Oregonians include Zac Brunson, a four-time state champion from Churchill of Eugene, who is ranked No. 1 in the nation at 160, and three Roseburg wrestlers — Marq Randall at heavyweight and the Mandera brothers, Hector at 152 and Javier at 170.
Other multiple state titlists for Oregon will be Newberg's Pete Russo (126), North Marion's Jake Stigall (126) and, at 138, Hermiston's Joey Delagado, a four-time winner.
Southern Oregon coach Mike Ritchey said the duals are a great recruiting tool for coaches, many of whom will view it online. Several, however, will be in attendance, including him.
"Of course, we pay close attention to it," said Ritchey, who guided the Raiders to second at the NAIA national championships last week. "For us, it's familiarity with the kids. Some of the Washington kids only hear about Division I programs, so this puts the thoughts in the their heads that there might be other options.
"We have our eyes on many of these guys and hope they will like how important wrestling is to the Southern Oregon University."
106 — Ian Rogers, Tigard.
113 — Kyle Renfro, Dallas.
120 — McKennon Buckner, Crook Country.
126 — Peter Russo, Newberg.
126 — Jake Stigall, North Marion.
132 — Daniel Leonard, Sherwood.
138 — Joey Delagado, Hermiston.
145 — Eleazer De Luca, Phoenix.
152 — Hector Mandera, Roseburg.
160 — Zac Brunson, Churchill.
170 — Javier Mandera, Roseburg.
182 — Chance Fahndrich, Crater.
195 — Jacob Turek, Hillsboro.
220 — Mick Dougharity, Barlow.
285 — Marq Randall, Roseburg.
Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 541-776-4479, or email email@example.com