Husky wrestling team young but experienced

Scott Swanson

Of The New Era

It’s a new season in a new conference for the Sweet Home wrestling squad.

Gone are the four seniors who placed at last year’s 3A state championships. But their absence simply makes room for the next wave of Huskies.

“We graduated a good crew last year,” said Coach Steve Thorpe, beginning his 11th year with the program. “It’s nice that we’re coming back with a bunch of good wrestlers and a good freshman class.”

Thorpe and his assistants, Steve Hummer, Tim Boatright, Eric Tagle and Shannon Stover, have some 45 prospects out and the coach said he hopes they all stick.

“We’re just loaded – four or five deep between 103 and 125,” he said. “Then we start getting a lot of depth again above 145. I’m just floored. We’ve got a lot of experience in the room. We only have three guys who haven’t wrestled before.”

Thorpe said returning veterans are already taking charge.

“We graduated some good seniors, but of the ones stepping in, we’ve got some great leaders already,” he said.

The Huskies have no returning state placers, but they return several who came within a match or two of placing at last year’s state meet and who did well in the freestyle and Greco wrestling last spring.

Sophomore Chris Farris, the Huskies’ only returning district champion, is back and expected to wrestle at 112 or 119 pounds.

Also back are Cody Sells, Joe McCaslin and Rob Helfrich, who, along with Farris, all placed at the state freestyle and Greco tournaments last spring. Helfrich placed fifth in the state in Greco last spring.

Danny Johnson, who is expected to wrestle at 112 pounds, finished last season one match away from placing at state. Jake Smith, who is expected to compete at 119 or 125 pounds, also was one match away from placing at the state tournament. Smith is fresh off the boys cross-country team that made state for the first time since 2000.

In addition to the wrestlers with state experience, the Huskies have “a bunch of guys who did some very good things for us last year and lettered,” Thorpe said. They include Nick Pitts, Daniel Smith, Brandon Lawson, Sawyer Anderson, Matt Parker and Jack Perry.

The newcomers are showing a taste for what it takes to win, the coach said.

“It’s nice that we’re coming back with a bunch of good wrestlers and a good freshman class,” he said. “These aren’t kids who just showed up. This is a bunch of kids with a lot of experience. I think what I’m kind of happy about right now with this freshman class is how they work. Very hard workers. If they’re willing to work, this coaching staff can do a lot of stuff with them.”

Rounding out the team will be: seniors KC Hanscam, Andrew Knight, Thomas Larsen, Ridge McKinney, Cory Ottre and Kevin Yeung; juniors Ben Brewer, Matt Diercks, Kyle Guttierrez, Casey Johnson and Derek Sharp; sophomores Marc Callagan, Robert Callagan, Logan Clark, Lief Erickson, Kyle Holmes, Brandon Larsen, Nikki Smith, Paul Tores and Josh Ward; and freshmen Anthony Albright, Brock Crocker, Matthew Grove, Mitchel Grove, Tyler Holly, James Myers, Brad Pitts, Sean Potter, David Reinhart, Taylor Tagle, Brehk Veitenheimer and JP Williams.

The ValCo League will be a new experience for Sweet Home and Thorpe said there will be some nostalgia for the Capital Conference, in which the Huskies were one of the top teams perennially.

“This is a new league for us,” he said. “I hate that we left Capital Conference. We had a lot of friendships developed with other coaches, a lot of rivalries and comraderie.”

But, Thorpe said, the ValCo conference will offer new challenges that he said will be “exciting.”

There are a couple of tough teams in the ValCo,” he said, noting that Philomath is ranked sixth in state right now. “Central can always kick out a couple good wrestlers.”

The Huskies will kick things off for the 2006-07 campaign on Saturday, Dec. 2, when they send one team to a 16-team dual meet-style tournament at Cottage Grove and another to a varsity tournament at Elmira.