Gill signs to wrestle at SOU after deciding to forgo football

Scott Swanson

Southern Oregon University’s wrestling program now has four Sweet Home alums on its roster after Zach Gill signed to wrestle with the Raiders Saturday, Sept. 7.

Gill originally had planned to play football at College of the Siskiyous, but changed his mind, he said.

SOU coach Mike Ritchey said he was delighted when he got a call from Sweet Home wrestling coach Steve Thorpe about Gill’s availability.

“I just happened to be fishing for kokanee at Green Peter that day,” Ritchey said. He met with Gill in town and they reached an agreement that Gill would come to the Raiders.

“That’s not the latest recruit I’ve ever gotten, but it’s close,” Ritchey said.

“It’s always good to have a Plan B,” said Gill, who plans to major in criminology, a strong program at SOU. He said he plans to be a correctional officer.

Gill is a two-time third-place finisher at the Oregon state 4A championships at 285 pounds and won that weight category at the prestigious Resers Tournament of Champions earlier this year. “I was really impressed with him at the Resers Tournament,” Ritchey said. “I gave his dad my card.”

Thorpe said he is “very proud” of Gill.

“I never did push Zach to wrestle because I felt he wanted to be a football player,” he said.

“But,” he added, “I knew all along he was a wrestler.”

Gill joins junior Brock Crocker and sophomore Scottie Stockman, along with fellow freshman Tyler Cowger, who signed last spring.

“They’re all at different weights,” Ritchey said. “They could all hit the line-up together.”

Also, Sweet Home alums Kyle Temple and Tomas Rosa both graduated from SOU and are coaching wrestling, Temple as head coach at Stayton and Rosa as an assistant on Thorpe’s staff.

In addition to the Sweet Home wrestlers, Ritchie has signed five other Oregon natives, one Washington native, one Colorado native and one Californian. They include four-time Oregon state champion Lucas Randall of North Marion, Luke O’Connor of Glide, Chance Lindquist of Redmond and Tim Tsukanov of Barlow.

The Raiders are looking to reload after a second-place finish at the 2012 NAIA National Championships.

The Raiders will look to replace a pair of national champions in 2013 after Mitchell Lofstedt of Roseburg and Jimmy Eggemeyer of Kodiak, Alaska graduated in the spring. Ritchey believes these nine wrestlers will play a key role in that quest.

“I’m excited to bring this class into the fold and watch them grow as Raiders,” Ritchey said. “Along with their wrestling abilities, we are also very excited about this class as these student-athletes will really contribute academically at SOU. They have joined the ‘Band of Warriors’ and may be on the front lines fairly soon.”

He said Gill is a “mobile heavyweight” who has “pretty high energy.”

“People love the big men and he’s a big man,” Ritchey said. “He’s going to be a big presence, walking into the gym. That’s important.”

He added that he has a current wrestler who will be able to help Gill develop and who plans to stick around as a coach.

Thorpe said that will be a big plus for Gill.

“He’s kept himself in shape over summer, so he’ll be ready to compete. He is going to have to become a better wrestler and at the college level, he will become a better wrestler. I don’t worry about his character and drive. I think what Zach has never had was somebody to work out with him that was his size. We’ve had coaches do it and last year his main workout partner was David Skeen, a 220 wrestler.”

Gill said he likes SOU for the “family bond with everybody.

“Everything you go through, the people next to you are going through the same thing.”

Thorpe said he is impressed by Gill’s willingness to have a back-up plan in place during the recruiting process.

“He didn’t put all his eggs in one basket, so when one plan failed, he was able to move on. These guys who only want to focus on one thing – they think, ‘I’m not going to do this because I’m focusing on something else.’ Well, what if that one thing doesn’t work out?”