When you think of wrestling on television, the image of painted faces, knee-high boots and skin-tight trunks typically comes to mind.

When you think of wrestling on television, the image of painted faces, knee-high boots and skin-tight trunks typically comes to mind.

It's a multi-million dollar spectacle that has essentially turned the sport of wrestling into sports entertainment, sort of a soap opera for men, if you will.

While professional wrestling has carved a niche in the entertainment industry, the amateur wrestling world has taken a hit in recent years.

Budget cuts have brought along the elimination of collegiate wrestling programs throughout the nation, most recently at the expense of several local standouts after the University of Oregon opted to drop the program last July so it could bring baseball back into the fold.

In hopes of bringing further attention to a sport so many, especially in the Rogue Valley, cling to these days, Crater wrestling coach Greg Haga jumped at the chance to have his team's regular season-finale against Eagle Point televised locally.

"I think it's important that people see there is excitement for it. Especially for the community in the Rogue Valley, wrestling is a pretty big sport," says Haga, who has led the Comets to seven state championships and one runner-up finish in the past 10 years. "For those people that might have been missing out, this is a chance to see a little of what it's like to be at one of these intense duals."

Crater and Eagle Point will square off for the second time this season on Thursday, with junior varsity matches slated to begin at 5:45 p.m. and the varsity at 7 in Central Point. A tape-delayed telecast will air at 6 p.m. Friday on Charter Channel 16 (Southern Oregon ESD TV) in Jackson and Josephine counties and on Channel 98 on Ashland TV.

It will replay at 2 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday on those respective channels.

This will be the second time this high school season that a local athletic event will be televised. Last October, the 100th anniversary game in the football rivalry between Grants Pass and the Black Tornado at North Medford was aired locally.

Haga says there is a definite similarity between that football rivalry and the one the Comets have with their neighboring Eagles in wrestling.

"Back in the old days when Grants Pass and Medford played football, it was always a pretty heated rivalry," says the coach, "and we're no different. It's just an all-around good athletic event.

"It's always an interesting dual and a hotly contested match," Haga adds of EP-Crater matchups. "The kids like that and the fans like that and as coaches it gets you juiced up and ready to go, too. When you look at Eagle Point, the sport that's gained them the most notoriety is wrestling, and at Crater it's the same way, I think. They have a lot of pride in their program, and we do, too."

Eagle Point has earned four state titles and finished as runner-up on five other occasions in its storied history, accomplishing the bulk of its honors from 1985-1989. Crater has garnered eight team titles and been runner-up three times overall.

Haga hopes this week's telecast will help spark the interest in bringing more wrestling duals into people's homes throughout the state. In turn, he thinks that will help revive interest in a sport that most don't understand simply because they haven't been inundated with it as is the case with the more "popular" sports: baseball, basketball and football.

"I think if they took and televised a lot of the good duals around the state, not just Crater-Eagle Point, it would help us all," he says. "Right now you see basketball all over the TV, whether it's college or pro or what have you. Football and baseball are the same way. In wrestling you don't have that.

"Everybody knows about basketball and baseball and football because it's always on TV. When people watch wrestling for the first time, they don't really understand it because they haven't had the same exposure."

The Comets cruised past the Eagles, 51-24, when the two teams met previously on Dec. 12. Crater won nine of the 14 weight classes — three by forfeit and five by fall — against an EP team riddled by injury.

Both teams head into this week essentially at full strength as they gear up for the district and state tournaments. The Southern Sky Conference district tourney is set Feb. 9 at Eagle Point High, while the Class 5A state meet will be Feb. 14-16 at the Memorial Coliseum in Portland.

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SOME COACHES MAY find it difficult to settle on a playing rotation in basketball, but imagine the plight of the girls program in Prospect.

The Class 1A Cougars haven't historically had the deepest of rosters, but this year's cast goes only seven deep and Prospect has played a handful of games with only six players in uniform.

Still, the Prospect girls are one win away from equaling their win total of last season (11) and have already totaled as many Mountain Valley League victories (3) as they did a year ago. The Cougars are 10-8 overall and 3-5 in MVL play heading into tonight's game at Gilchrist. The team won only three games two years ago.

The Cougars have spent the season using makeshift lineups just so they can scrimmage. Head coach Rocky VanWormer has recruited some of the JV players from the boys basketball team to help out, and often some of the varsity guys hanging around find their way onto the court.

"It toughens them up a little bit," VanWormer says of his girls taking on the boys.

At times VanWormer has inserted himself into the scrimmage, but that has come with its share of issues.

"My problem is it's hard to coach and talk to them if you can't breathe," he says with a chuckle.

Of the seven players on the Prospect roster, two are freshmen (Ariana Peters and Lindsey Baker), two are sophomores (Alexis Zeller and Shianne Tanner) and three are juniors (Jen King, Becky Musard and Catherine Anderson).

Anderson has missed a couple games this year after turning an ankle, while Musard has been hampered by a rotator cuff injury and may miss the rest of the season.

Help is on the way, however, says VanWormer. The eighth-grade class boasts a group of about 10 prospects and VanWormer, who has a daughter in that group, doesn't plan on going anywhere anytime soon.

"We're heading in the right direction," he says.

Reach reporter Kris Henry at 776-4488, or e-mail khenry@mailtribune.com