North Medford High wrestling coach Phillip Lopez isn't the type to get carried away.
To give an indication of the commanding presence Tyrone Holmes has in track and field, Eagle Point's Jef McClellan recounted a sight at last week's District 1 championships in Bend.
McClellan and other coaches were beyond the finish line of the 110-meter hurdles race. When they peered down the track at the starting line as competitors took their marks in the blocks, the coaches could see the back of only one entrant over the rows of hurdles.
Yep, it was Holmes, a 6-foot-4, 235-pounder who possesses an uncommon combination of size and speed.
How much speed? He won that hurdles race in a state-best time.
Holmes will be at it again today and Saturday at the Class 5A state championships at Hayward Field on the University of Oregon campus in Eugene.
The Class 6A and 4A meets will run simultaneously, and Holmes is the only local athlete who will attempt to defend a state title.
The senior won the shot put last year with a personal-best mark of 56 feet, 31/2 inches. He also placed fourth in the 110 hurdles (15.16 seconds) and ninth in the discus (129-3).
Holmes, who has signed to play football for the University of Montana, has shown dramatic improvement in the hurdles — his 5A-leading time is 14.56 seconds — and he's accomplished a PR in the discus this spring of 145-0. Both came at the district meet.
He hasn't matched his shot put mark of 2011 but still leads 5A throwers at 54-11, also achieved at district.
"He's had a good week of practice, and he's been a really good, solid worker all this season," said McClellan. " With his work ethic, he gets a lot done. He's one of the last kids to leave practice. We anticipate him doing really well."
Several other locals have high expectations as well.
Holmes' teammate, senior Garrett Snow, is among the favorites in the boys javelin, in which he has the No. 3 throw in 5A.
Also in 5A, Ashland senior twins Sam and Benjamin Jackson rank Nos. 1 and 3 in the boys 800, and they're on a 4x400 relay that is No. 3.
In 6A, South Medford senior Kodie Artner owns the No. 2 time in the boys 300 hurdles and is fifth in the 400, and North Medford freshman Halley Folsom has a top-five mark in the girls 300 hurdles.
In 4A, Phoenix senior Max Hamilton is No. 3 in the boys 800 and freshman Nevina DeLuca is No. 4 in the girls 3,000.
Holmes will be particularly busy today because the finals in both the shot put and discus will be held as well as preliminaries in the high hurdles.
McClellan has prepared him for the transition in practice by having him go from one event to another with little rest.
Last year, Holmes' timing was off before the shot put. He was the last to check in because he thought there were two flights, and he was accorded only two warmup puts.
It didn't matter, though, as he uncorked a winning throw that moved his PR up nearly 4 feet.
McClellan isn't worried that Holmes hasn't matched that effort.
"That's not a concern," said McClellan. "He's one of those kids who can turn it on when it's a big-time meet. That's what we're looking forward to this week."
Holmes is also driven to improve his standing in the discus, said McClellan.
Holmes and Snow helped Eagle Point to fifth place in the team standings a year ago.
Snow was third in the javelin and will be another title contender for the Eagles. Although his best heave this spring of 187-3 leaves him third on the list of 5A bests, nearly 6 feet behind Silverton's Andrew Rogers, Snow is seeded first at state based on district meet results.
"He has a shot at doing really well," said McClellan. "He's been driven all year to win this meet. He's really consistent, that's the thing he has going for him. Some of these kids in the javelin have one big throw here or there."
Snow has eclipsed 180 feet in five meets, and at district, all six of his throws exceeded that.
Rogers has gone over 180 in three meets, and No. 2 David Barnett of Hermiston has done it once, when he unleashed a throw of 193-0.
For Ashland, Sam Jackson ranks No. 1 in the 800 with a time of 1:56.36. Brother Benjamin isn't far behind at 1:57.25.
Sam Jackson won state in the 800 as a sophomore but didn't qualify last season after contracting food poisoning the weekend of the district meet.
Artner attempted a difficult series of events for the first time at last week's Southwest Conference championships and came through impressively, winning the 300 hurdles and 400, anchoring the winning 4x400 relay and running on the runner-up 4x100 relay.
He'll be at it again, only this time potentially over two days, with prelims today and finals Saturday.
His best event is the hurdles. He ranks second in 6A with a 38.62 time, just behind the 38.54 of Sunset's Eric Zechenelly.
Folsom is No. 3 in the 300 hurdles at 45.21. The leader is Lakeridge's Madi Greenleaf at 44.52.
Hamilton was third at state in the 800 last year and figures to be in the thick of the race this weekend. He has the top seed time of 1:56.92, which ranks No. 3 for the season in 4A.
Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 541-776-4479, or email firstname.lastname@example.org