By Ben • Ben Schorzman • 

WrestleMania 2013 begins today at Coliseum

First-round wrestling begins at 8:30 a.m. today, and the first day ends at 8:15 p.m. Wrestling starts Saturday at 8:30 a.m., and the finals are at 6:30 p.m.

The McMinnville wrestling team has nine competitors who qualified for state, the most in coach Shawn Keinonen’s six-year tenure at McMinnville. He said he has high hopes of coming home with some hardware.

“I know with our nine guys I would be disappointed if we don’t have five or six placers,” Keinonen said. “I would be disappointed without three guys in the finals. That would mean a trophy.

“The potential is there. But the potential is also there to fall flat on our face. That’s what makes it so fun.”

The Grizzlies earned three individual seeds. Senior Jared Sublet is the No. 1-seeded wrestler at 132 pounds. He is Mac’s highest returning placer with a third-place finish at last year’s tournament. Junior J.T. Barnes is a No. 2 seed at 152 pounds, and Tiger Paasch is a No. 3 seed at 170. Paasch placed fifth last year at state.

Keinonen said seeding can be misleading, but it does guarantee those three first-round matches vs. wrestlers who finished fourth at their regionals.

“They put you in position to be successful,” Keinonen said. “Of course, not being seeded isn’t the end of the world. Hopefully we’re the ones knocking off seeds instead of losing them.”

The 6A tournament is a minefield of good wrestlers, but Keinonen said he likes the chances his athletes have. Roseburg — which has won five of the last six state championships — qualified 17 wrestlers for state, and David Douglas is second with 13. Mac is tied with four other teams with the seventh most wrestlers in the tournament with nine.

“We’re going to do what we’ve done all year,” Keinonen said. “Be aggressive. We want to set the tone.”

Some roads to the finals are easier than others, though. Sophomore Aspen Nelson is matched up with No. 2-seeded Austin Mitchell in the first round at 106, and if Solomon Souza wins in the first round, he could potentially wrestle No. 1 seeded Chad Jones of Roseburg in the quarterfinals at 120. Bryce Branson (120), Manny Humlie (126), Bobby Crowston (138) and Chris Cerda (195) also have varying levels of tough matches to open the championships.

Keinonen did have one extra bit of motivation for his wrestlers. He said his coach, legendary Newberg coach Tony Russo, used to tell his team before the tournament that he was able to sneak one more qualifier into the field. Two bonus points are awarded for pinning your opponent, and Keinonen said Barnes, Paasch and Sublet win a lot of matches by pins. The more pins, the more it adds up until it’s almost like a team has an extra wrestler scoring points for them.

“I wish I could take credit for this, but Tony would say, ‘I got an extra guy in. His name is Pin,’” Keinonen said. “That should help us.”


Willamina, Dayton in the mix to trophy

The Willamina and Dayton wrestling teams are set up well to score big points over the next two days. The Bulldogs — the 2012 3A state runners-up — qualified 14 wrestlers, and the Pirates have nine at state.

“I knew 16 had a shot,” Willamina coach Ariah Fasana said. “That’s everything working out as you wish it to. The 14 gives us a chance going in. That’s all you can ask for.”

It’s a chance, but it seems to Fasana and Dayton coach Rob Henry that teams will be fighting for second through fourth place because Glide should run away with the team championship. Glide has 16 wrestlers on the brackets, and the Wildcats have won a lot of matches this season. They won the Oregon Classic in January, running roughshod on most of the competition — including Dayton, beating the Pirates 48-7.

“Unless Glide just completely has a nuclear meltdown, no one will beat them,” Henry said. “I think it’s going to be a dogfight for the rest of the trophies.”

Fasana agreed.

“We have another shot, but Glide is the team to beat,” he said. “They’re solid. If they show up like they’re supposed to, they’ll win it.”

Just because the Wildcats should win doesn’t mean they will. In the emotionally charged atmosphere at state, upsets have a tendency of occurring with exciting frequency, which would open the door for teams like Willamina.

“You can look at the brackets all you want, but at some point you have to put them aside and just wrestle,” Fasana said. “You hope you win the ones you’re supposed to and get a few lucky wins along the way.”

Another storyline to keep an eye on: Sophomore Justin Acuff is Sheridan’s only state wrestler. He’s wrestling at 132 pounds this year and will try to win his second consecutive state championship.

Amity is sending two wrestlers — Jake Markee and Aaron Campbell — to state.

Yamhill-Carlton has three wrestlers competing. Stefan Maxwell at 138, Dakotah Olson at 195 and Cesar Meza at 220.

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