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Raider wrestlers start tonight

ASHLAND -- Southern Oregon University's Kegs of Funk willdebut tonight in the Raiders' season-opening wrestling match at McNeal Pavilion.

Senior Tyson Escobar, who is ranked third in the nation at 126 poundsat the NAIA level, will follow his younger brother, Ryan, onto the mat asthe second part of the Kegs of Funk show when the Raiders meet Pac-10 Conferencemember UC-Davis at 7:30 p.m.

Southern Oregon will host the Belcastro Open on Saturday at McNeal Pavilion.Teams in the tournament are Oregon, Oregon State, Portland State, BoiseState, UC-Davis, San Francisco State, Clackamas Community College and SouthwesternOregon Community College.

The Escobars have been given their strange nickname because of theirunorthodox, funky style of wrestling. But whatever the moves look like,they are done with force. And success usually follows.

Tyson Escobar admits he will be pacing and fretting when his youngerbrother opens the match at 118 pounds.

I'll try to encourage him, but he doesn't need much motivation,says Tyson. He's a self-starter, and he will go right after his guywithout any encouragement.

The Escobar brothers, who learned their unusual style from their father,head wrestling coach Steve Escobar of Ponderosa High of Sacramento, Calif.,don't know what the fuss is about when they step on the mat and people startbuzzing over their intensity and odd-looking moves.

They say they don't know any other way to wrestle. And SOU coach MikeRitchey isn't about to change what he calls a good thing.

They are both fun to watch, says Ritchey. Basically,they are tough and aggressive, but they do it in a different style.

If you are going to wrestle either one of them, you had betterbe ready to wrestle hard for seven minutes and be ready to be in some positionsthat you have never been in before.

Ritchey hopes the Escobar brothers will give the Raiders early leadsin their dual matches, beginning tonight against UC-Davis.

Southern Oregon has never lost to Davis in a dual match, but the Raiders'21-match winning streak over the Aggies seems destined to change. Startingthis year, Davis is an NCAA Division I scholarship program.

Programs and wrestlers seem to spiff up and get tougher when theyhave full scholarships, says Ritchey. It will be a lot tougher,but I think we can win.

We think we have five matches we can win, and we hope to win atleast a couple of the other five. I'd like to win all five of those, too.

Tyson Escobar finished the 1996-97 season with a 12-7 record for SOUand finished sixth in the NAIA national tournament.

After transferring from Sierra Junior College last year, he wasn't academicallyeligible to wrestle for the Raiders until last January.

I got a late start and had some tough matches when I got started,says Escobar. But I came on at the end of the season, and I beat thenational champion at my weight twice.

My goal this year is to win the national championship. I'm a senior,and I don't want to let any younger guys beat me. I want my last match tobe the national championship match.

Ryan Escobar was a California high school All-American as a senior.

Of the 35 wrestlers on Southern Oregon's roster, 20 are freshmen andseven are junior-college transfers.

It's a new team and a different kind of team than we've had fora while, says Ritchey. But there's a lot of talent on it.

After the Escobars, SOU will put four more freshmen on the mat. GabeWishart will wrestle at 134 pounds, Nick Hurliman at 142, Dan Sturgell at150, Matt Armstrong at 158 and Brian Fast at 167.

Also, junior Tucker Fife is at 177, junior Jamie Haddon at 190 and juniorChris Moore at 275.

The Raiders will wrestle without senior Matt Paulson at 134 pounds andsenior Jamie Dixon at 177. Dixon is recovering from knee surgery and probablywon't return to the lineup until January.

Paulson will miss at least the first month of the season because of personalproblems, according to Ritchey.

Hurliman replaces 1997 SOU national champion Nick Cline at 142 pounds.Cline was 42-4 last year.

Sturgell had a 112-13 record in four seasons at Warrenton High and wonClass 2A state championships the last two seasons.

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