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Greg Bryant is no stranger to local wrestling, and that, he said, should make for a smooth transition as he takes over the South Medford High program.
Bryant, 35, has been named to succeed Dave Alonzo, who resigned after three years as the head coach.
Bryant, a former Klamath Union wrestler, has been involved in the sport in the Rogue Valley since moving here a decade ago.
He was an assistant to Alonzo last season, and prior to that coached a couple years each at Hedrick and McLoughlin middle schools.
He's also overseen the South Medford youth mat club and has helped with the North Medford youth program.
"I know a lot of the kids and that helps," said Bryant, an English teacher who will move from a McLoughlin classroom to one at South. "I've had professional and personal relationships with the kids and their families going all the way down to the elementary schools. So there's quite a bit of continuity that I bring, and that will be beneficial."
Bryant grew up in Arizona before moving to Klamath Falls in high school. He wrestled for Klamath Union for two years before graduating in 1996.
He joined the Navy and continued to compete in all-Navy and open events until a shoulder injury put an end to that.
His first coaching job was as a high school assistant in Bremerton, Wash., in 1999.
South Medford hasn't finished higher than seventh in the past three regional championships, which determine state placers.
Bryant's first order of business, he said, is to "bring excitement and opportunities and to be competitive in the sport."
He plans to schedule tournaments in which varsity and lower level kids can compete.
Too often, he said, kids who work hard in the mat room haven't been rewarded with dual meet or tournament time.
"Greg has a very clear vision of where he would like to take our program," said South Medford athletic director Dennis Murphy, "and we are very excited about that.
"Part of the reason he was hired is that he has a wonderful passion for wrestling, is a hard worker and really is a 'kid connector,' which we hope will bode well for improving our wrestling program."
The Panthers finished last season with 17 wrestlers. Bryant has a like number heading into the summer, including a solid group of freshmen, and expects the total number to grow.
"I want to do things for the kids and their families, and I want to meet their expectations," said Bryant. "When we do that, this program will grow and start to develop, and people will see the value in South Medford wrestling."
Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 541-776-4479, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org