The Redmond High wrestling team, usually a state power, is hoping to be in full gear by the time the district and state meets take place next month.
The Panthers, who finished sixth at state in 2018, have had some strong finishes this season but are dealing with numerous injuries and illnesses. At a recent practice, coach Kris Davis said 12 wrestlers were out with the flu, while Trae Bolken, who finished sixth at 138 pounds at the 2018 Class 5A state championships, was recovering from a concussion and Kole Davis, who won the 126-pound title earlier this season at a tournament in Oregon City, was out with an elbow injury.
“If we can get everybody healthy and in the right weight class, we’d be pretty tough, but it’s been a struggle working through that process,” Kris Davis said.
The Panthers are heading into a marquee tournament this week. The Oregon Classic brings 80 teams, 20 of them from Class 5A, to the Deschutes County fairgrounds Friday and Saturday. Along with Redmond and Ridgeview, 5A teams scheduled to compete include Dallas, Crater and Thurston, which finished one-two-three at state last season, and Crook County, which moved to the IMC after winning the Class 4A title in 2018. “We have a good lineup, we just have to get everybody on the right page,” Davis said. “We just have to keep competing.”
Redmond has seen some strong performances this year, finishing second at the Adrian Irwin tournament at Ridgeview, fifth at the Coast Classic in North Bend and seventh at the NW Duals in Albany.
While the Bend schools have moved on to Class 6A and former district rival Hermiston now competes in Washington, Crook County presents a new challenge. The Cowboys won the Coast Classic and the Rollie Lane Invitational in Idaho, where Redmond finished 22nd of 101 teams.
Crook County defeated Redmond 49-22 in a Jan. 10 dual meet where the Panthers were without some top wrestlers.
Davis is confident his team will be prepared for Crook County at the Feb. 8-9 IMC meet in Pendleton.
“They have six or seven really tough kids, but we think we can hang with a lot of their best kids, we’re not going to back down,” he said Jan. 8.
Davis can see the Panthers on the podium at the Feb. 22-23 state tournament in Portland.
“We can be in the top four as long as we take care of business and peak at the right time,” he said.
Several Panthers could also win state individual titles, Davis said. Sophomore Kagen Lawrence looks to win at 113 pounds after placing second at 106 pounds as a freshman, though Chance Lamer of Crescent Valley, who defeated Lawrence 14-10 in the final, is also back. Last season was the first time Redmond didn’t have an individual state champion since 2014 and only the fourth time since 2001.
“This year, I’m striving to win state and get better as a wrestler,” Lawrence said. “So far, I’ve been wrestling pretty good, placed at a few tough tournaments. I’m hoping I can wrestle even better and win state.”
The loss last year motivated Lawrence to work harder in 2019, with a goal of eventually equaling the three state championships Mitchell Willett (2015-17), Clarence Seal (1958-60) and Austin Enoch (2005-08) won for Redmond.
Other possible contenders include Davis, Bolken, 128-pound Landon Robinson,138-pound Jacob Curry and 160-pound Clayton Elrod. Curry and Robinson both reached finals of their weight classes at state in 2017, when they were sophomores, while Elrod finished fourth at state in 2018.
Elrod has been working on getting his weight down during the season and hopes to be in peak condition for the district tournament and have a chance to win state.
“I feel like I can definitely win it,” he said. “It’s going to be a grind.”
Elrod has benefited from the Panthers 6:15 a.m. workouts, which they have in addition to afternoon practice, he said. They stretch and run around the gym.
“It will be good for the (Oregon) Classic because we get up at 5:30 (a.m.) to weigh in and start at 7:30, rather than our regular 9 o’clock start,” he said.
The Panthers have a dual meet against Hood River Valley scheduled the night before the Oregon Classic. Kris Davis said the back-to-back events could be beneficial.
“It gets our weight down so that we’re ready to go the next day,” he said.
— Reporter: 541-548-2186, gfolsom@ redmondspokesman.com