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Butte Falls quartet pulling double duty

His days may be a little more action-packed than before, but Butte Falls junior Luke McGonagle wouldn’t have it any other way.

McGonagle is one of four boys basketball players who are pulling double duty these days after the Class 1A Loggers chose to offer wrestling at the high school level for the first time. Joining the 6-foot-3 junior on both teams has been senior Alex Cool-Hunsaker, junior Spencer Scofield and freshman Isaac Tiry.

Others competing on the nine-member wrestling team, coached by Jim Mannenbach, include seniors Brice Schloesser and Adam Carlisle, junior Matt Palomino and freshmen Christian Suarez and Billie Tucker.

“Going back and forth from practice is a little bit exhausting but I don’t want to just do one sport,” said McGonagle, who helped push Butte Falls to expand its wrestling program beyond the middle school level. “I love wrestling. It was an automatic no-brainer to do both. One of my goals for high school was to play all the sports that I could, not including track. I’m not much of a track fan.”

McGonagle is a leading rebounder for the basketball team, which will be seeking its first win in 12 tries Wednesday when the Loggers host Hosanna Christian. Cool-Hunsaker is another key scorer and rebounder, and each was instrumental to the football team’s success as all-District 2 honorees.

On Dec. 22, McGonagle set the bar for the wrestling team by placing third at the North Douglas tournament at 220 pounds – even though he weighs much closer to 195. The nine-person weight class included wrestlers from Riddle, North Douglas, Glendale and was headlined by Roseburg’s JV squad.

“I was the first high school placer at Butte Falls ever, so that’s pretty cool,” said the 16-year-old. “Those were experienced wrestlers that I had to go against and the fact that I got that far means I’m doing pretty good.”

McGonagle plans to wrestle closer to his natural weight at 195 when he competes Friday in the North Lake Desert Invitational.

Choosing when to compete in each sport has been the most daunting challenge. Mannenbach has scheduled his practices around the plans of boys basketball coach Gerrad Munsell, but it’s been up to each individual to determine how they handle conflicts between games and wrestling tournaments.

“They’re finding out that it’s a tough thing to do both,” said Mannenbach. “They’ve actually been going to more of the basketball games than they have wrestling matches because there’s a lot more basketball games in the schedule than wrestling. But it does take away, I’m sure, from both ends.”

Mannenbach said this year is being treated as a trial run when it comes to offering wrestling as an option at the 60-student high school. The decision to allow athletes to compete in both was made because “some kids were just having a tough time deciding.”

Count McGonagle as one who wasn’t totally willing to turn in his basketball shoes after years in the sport, but one who still craved to compete at a higher level in wrestling than his older brothers Josh and Jared once did when they were in middle school.

“The toughest part is choosing between wrestling meets and basketball games,” said McGonagle, who boasts a 7-1 record on the mat this season. “I’ve done half and half so far. The first half of conflicts I’ve gone to my basketball games and the second half I’ll do wrestling because that affects state wrestling rankings more.”

“I love wrestling way more,” he added, “but there are games in basketball where the team will need my height.”

Other than the conflicting schedules, McGonagle said he hasn’t been adversely affected by playing both sports. If anything, he said he’s in better shape than he’s ever been before. He and Cool-Hunsaker, who wrestles at 195, have best been able to carry over their physical, unrelenting style to the mat, and Thiry was an eighth grade district champion one year ago.

Most of the team’s success thus far has been at novice tournaments, much like the one they’ll compete at next Monday at South Medford, but Mannenbach has high hopes for the continued development of all his wrestlers as they hopefully peak for the district championships in February.

“It’s tough for these kids,” Mannenbach said of the non-novice meets, “because it’s their first time being on a high school wrestling mat and they’re going up against kids that may have been in wrestling programs all their life. It’s definitely a challenge for them.”

“I just want them to have some success and make it a learning experience,” added the longtime fixture in Eagle Point’s wrestling system. “When they make a mistake, I don’t want them to get down on themselves, just use it as a learning experience to get prepared for the next time they wrestle. We’ve been in some situations where wrestlers have kids on their backs pinning them and then later on in the match they get pinned or beat. It’s just a lack of mat time.”

Mannenbach said a big challenge involves finding workout partners at similar weights among the small group, as well as getting practices to the level he’d like them to be in order for each wrestler to reach their full potential.

“This year is kind of a test year to see how things go,” he said. “I knew it would be a major challenge when I took it on and we’ll just see how it goes. The key is to keep the kids’ spirits up and help them make the most of an opportunity the kids and their parents really wanted them to have.”

SOUTH MEDFORD boys basketball coach Dennis Murphy moved into third place on Oregon’s career coaching victories list with his team’s effort over the winter break at the Abby’s Holiday Classic.

Murphy entered this season fourth overall with a 652-199 career record, trailing Barry Adams (656-317), Nick Robertson (711-344) and Mike Doherty (850-390). The Panthers pulled Murphy even with Adams thanks to a championship win over Lake Oswego in the Red Bluff Holiday Classic, then advanced him to third by winning the first two games of the Abby’s Classic over West Albany and Cleveland.

Murphy carries an overall record of 658-203 (.764 winning percentage) into tonight’s Southwest Conference opener at home against Sheldon. He went 123-42 in seven seasons at St. Mary’s High and, since taking over at South Medford in 1988, is 535-161.

Cleveland coach Don Emry moved past Dick Gray (560-368) to start the season and, after placing third at the Abby’s Classic, stands seventh overall (565-307) with a moving target ahead of him in Junction City’s Craig Rothenberger, who is sixth at 580-460 and counting. Ken Harris is fifth (619-358).

Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, khenry@mailtribune.com, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry