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Tornado, Panthers gear up for numbers race

Roseburg's remarkable team dominance in Class 6A wrestling thus far has forced a shifting of priorities for the young Medford programs at North and South high schools, but that doesn't mean the Black Tornado and Panthers will be giving an inch when the Southwest Conference district wrestling tournament begins today.

Tournament host Roseburg owns the top seed in 11 of the 14 weight classes and the No. 2 spot in a handful of others — and for good reason — and it's highly unlikely the Indians will wilt during the two-day event.

"They're definitely the team to beat at the district tournament and the state tournament in two weeks for that matter," says North Medford coach Nolan Harris of top-ranked Roseburg. "No one's really competed with them this year. They're doing a great job."

Realistically, ninth-ranked Grants Pass, North Medford and South Medford expect to challenge for second in the team standings — leaving Harris and the Panthers' Sergio Gonzalez to focus more on qualifying as many wrestlers to the state tourney as possible. The top three placers at each weight advance to the Class 6A state tourney slated Feb. 14-16 at Memorial Coliseum in Portland.

"I think we're coming in with high hopes and expectations," says Gonzalez, who had six Panthers qualify for state last year. "Anything can happen, so hopefully I just get their best when it's needed most."

South Medford junior Ken Hyland is the lone returning state placer from Medford, and earned the No. 1 seed at 152 pounds. The only other top seeds not claimed by Roseburg went to North Medford sophomore Ryan Mahoney at 145 and Grants Pass' Nick Shoesmith at 189.

The Indians' strength rests mainly at the lower weights, where they return one state champion (119-pounder Mitchell Lofstedt) and four state placers: Tyler Lander (125), Jay Tovey (130), Steven Evans (112) and Dylan Westwang (140). Roseburg also boasts the No. 1-ranked 103 pounder in Drew Van Anrooy.

"They're really loaded in the lower weights, that's for sure," says Gonzalez.

Returning state placers Justin Eldred (125) and Dylan Fauver (130) will join Shoesmith and a host of capable Cavemen in leading the push against Roseburg.

Steven Lines, a 119-pound junior, is the only Panther besides Hyland with state-tournament experience, and Gonzalez expects both to perform well at the two-day district tourney.

Another junior, Zach Snyder, has spent most of the season wrestling up at 130 and Gonzalez hopes that will work to his advantage as he strives to make his way through a tough 125-pound bracket.

Senior Jacob Henrichs (215) and sophomore Robby Switzer (171) are also expected to vie for top-three spots for the Panthers, along with Michael Rake (135).

"I would like to see as many qualify as I can get," says Gonzalez. "Basically I'm just hoping to see kids wrestle their very best. If they can do that, that's all we can ask."

A bigger uprising may be in store across town at North Medford, where the Black Tornado boasts a young but talented lineup. North qualified only two wrestlers for state last year, but Harris hopes to dwarf that number this time around.

Joining Mahoney are No. 2 seeds Cory Haggans (152), Mark Dickison (160), Kade Peden (171), Kody Bonham (189) and Robert Ross (215).

"I think our confidence level is starting to get there," says the first-year coach. "It always helps when you are able to compete with tough teams like a Grants Pass and a South Medford. We've held our own with both of them this year, so hopefully they'll come to wrestle their best (today and Saturday)."

Bonham, a senior, and Peden, a junior, have provided the Tornado with solid leadership thus far, while the sophomore class of Mahoney, Dickison, Haggans and Ross have come on strong and could make big statements this weekend.

Southwest Conference Seeds

103 — 1, Drew Van Anrooy, Roseburg; 2, Dan Faas, Roseburg; 3, Alex Smith, North Medford; 4, Andy Wasil, South Eugene.

112 — 1, Steven Evans, Roseburg; 2, Nathan Piader, Grants Pass; 3, Chayse Jackson, Roseburg; 4, Justin Wolf, South Medford.

119 — 1, Mitchell Lofstedt, Roseburg; 2, Steven Lines, South Medford; 3, Alex Littlefair, Grants Pass; 4, Sierra Land, South Medford.

125 — 1, Tyler Lander, Roseburg; 2, Justin Eldred, Grants Pass; 3, Zach Snyder, South Medford; 4, Shawn Barton, Grants Pass.

130 — 1, Jay Tovey, Roseburg; 2, Seth Thomas, Roseburg; 3, Dylan Fauver, Grants Pass; 4, Cody Wedman, North Medford.

135 — 1, Sam Mecham, Roseburg; 2, Mike Cowell, Grants Pass; 3, Jesse Hornbrook, North Medford; 4, Jackson Hoyt, Sheldon.

140 — 1, Dylan Westwang, Roseburg; 2, Eric Stewart, Grants Pass; 3, Aaron Byrd, South Eugene; 4, Zach Willits, North Medford.

145 — 1, Ryan Mahoney, North Medford; 2, Tony Castro, Roseburg; 3, Justin Hoy, Grants Pass; 4, Cory Herrington, Roseburg.

152 — 1, Ken Hyland, South Medford; 2, Cory Haggans, North Medford; 3, Dylan Fors, Roseburg; 4, Wiley Nelson, South Eugene.

160 — 1, Ken Kelley, Roseburg; 2, Mark Dickison, North Medford; 3, Tyler Brookbank, Roseburg; 4, Michael Stevenson, South Eugene.

171 — 1, Brandon Romano, Roseburg; 2, Kade Peden, North Medford; 3, Rob Switzer, South Medford; 4, Travis Kurth, South Eugene.

189 — 1, Nick Shoesmith, Grants Pass; 2, Kody Bonham, North Medford; 3, Joe Hennricks, Roseburg; 4, Brady Feasel, Roseburg.

215 — 1, Brad Mabie, Roseburg; 2, Robert Ross, North Medford; 3, Jacob Henrichs, South Medford; 4, Josh Brinkley, Grants Pass.

285 — 1, Brandon Galvez, Roseburg; 2, Casey Burke, Sheldon; 3, Jordan Guthrie, Roseburg; 4, Aaron Stine, Grants Pass.

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