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Wrestling has grown on Folsom

Two years ago, wrestling was little more than a hobby to Rob Folsom, something to do between the football and baseball seasons.

Now it might be his favorite sport.

The North Medford High junior won the Southern Oregon Conference district championship last weekend and will now take aim at a state championship Feb. 20-22 at Portland's Memorial Coliseum.

A wise man wouldn't bet against him.

Until this winter, baseball had always been Folsom's best and favorite sport. He was a first-team all-conference catcher as a freshman and sophomore, and earned second-team all-state accolades last spring.

In football, he was a first-team all-conference linebacker last fall.

It's difficult for a three-sport athlete to reach state-caliber status in every sport, simply because it's virtually impossible to devote the hours to any one sport that athletes who specialize in one or two sports do.

And yet Folsom has elevated his status as a wrestler to match the other two.

He has won 31 of his 35 matches and is ranked second in the state at 160 pounds. His only loss in Oregon at 160 was a 2-1 decision to Newberg's Neal Beaudry at the South Coast Classic in which Folsom was called for a controversial stalling point.

Baseball has always been my favorite sport and football has always been a close second, Folsom says. But right now I love wrestling.

And this season has been a blast.

Although Folsom has never grappled in tournaments during the spring and summer months ' he's too busy playing baseball ' he and his younger brother, Ryan, have their own wrestling room in their east Medford home.

Rob Folsom is also a student of the sport. He'll spend a couple hours every weekend watching videotapes of college wrestling, including last year's NCAA meet that he says he's watched at least 15 times.

He'll watch those tapes, come into the (wrestling) room (at North Medford) the next day and want to work on something he saw, North Medford coach Kacey McNulty says. And he'll pick them up. Rob picks things up very quickly.

Folsom got the best of fourth-ranked Christian Mannenbach of Eagle Point during last Saturday's 160-pound SOC championship match, charging to a 5-1 lead and then leg-riding him the rest of the way.

That's something he just learned to do, McNulty says of leg-riding. Rob has improved so much over the last two years he's not even the same wrestler.

He's gotten to be mat savvy.

Folsom's greatest asset, though, might be his competitive fire.

Even when we're goofing around, he's out to win, McNulty says. We've had some sumo matches where he's gotten knocked off the mat by one of our heavyweights, and the first thing Rob wants is a rematch.

Two weeks ago, Folsom took on Klamath Union's Robert Kincaid, ranked fourth at 189 pounds, in a dual match. The much bigger Kincaid escaped with a 5-3 victory.

As much as Folsom is excelling individually, he's also giving credibility to a Tornado wrestling program that is on the upswing. He and 152-pound senior Jimmy Ulrey, the Tornado's other district champion, are the undisputed leaders on a team that features several standout freshmen.

Two of the freshmen ' 135-pound Josh Smith and 145-pound Chris Platt ' also qualified for state.

Rob's a great role model, McNulty says. He works hard, and he expects everyone else to do the same.

And the freshmen have bought into that.

Folsom says he'll be far more comfortable at the state tournament this season than he was in 2002, when he managed to place seventh.

Last year it was hard for me to relax at tournaments, he says. Wrestling was still pretty new to me, and I didn't feel I really had what it took to beat the best guys.

Now he does, and that's bad news for his opponents.

IF YOU'RE A LOCAL HIGH school wrestling fan who values and appreciates history, then Central Point resident Robert Alvarez has a Web site you would surely be interested in.

The site ' ' contains information about SOC wrestling teams and individuals, past and present.

Alvarez has dug through files of the Mail Tribune, the Klamath Falls Herald and News and local libraries to come up with results dating to the 1940s.

I've had a lot of people ask about this stuff, and it wasn't available, Alvarez says. And so I thought I'd do something about it.

Alvarez is searching for any past brackets and results he can get his hands on. He can be reached at 664-2579.

Reach reporter Don Hunt at 776-4469, or e-mail