When it comes to Mid-Willamette Conference wrestling, it’s Dallas High and everyone else.
The Dragons, who finished second behind Crater at last February’s 5A state championships, have captured seven of the last eight district titles. Dallas wrestled top-ranked Roseburg, the reigning 6A champion, to a 33-33 decision earlier this month. The Indians were awarded a narrow victory based on tiebreaker criteria.
Despite losing 160-pound state champion Tanner Earhart to graduation, Dallas is the overwhelming favorite to notch another district title this winter.
“Dallas is untouchable, I think,” Lebanon coach Michael Cox said. Two years ago, the Warriors held off the Dragons to claim their first district championship since 1993.
“They are deep at every weight and tougher than nails. We’re all trying to get first, but second is what we’re really fighting for.”
The Warriors were the runners-up at last year’s MWC championships while South Albany took third. Both expect to remain contenders while Crescent Valley, Corvallis, Woodburn and Silverton have all improved from a season ago.
“The reality is we come from a tough league,” South coach Andrew Peterson said. “Dallas will be up there and Lebanon is always a tough one to contend with. CV has some studs and they are going to fill a lineup well.
“There are definitely no gimmies as we go through our league.”
CV, which is coming off a 14th-place state finish, could be one of 5A’s most improved squads.
Legend Lamer, a two-time state champion, is back for the Raiders. The junior is competing at 138 this winter after winning state titles at 106 (freshman) and 120 (sophomore).
Lamer has already captured titles at this month’s Perry Burlison Classic and North Bend Coast Classic.
“It looks like Legend will be staying at 138,” said Chad Lamer, CV’s coach and Legend’s father. “He is maybe between 142 and 144, so he is not cutting a whole lot and is feeling strong not having to worry about his weight. He is looking really good and wrestling a lot different confidence-wise.”
Chance Lamer, a 106-pounder and Legend’s younger brother, also finished atop his bracket at the Perry Burlison Classic and Coast Classic. Chance, a nationally-ranked freshman, won the 88-pound division at July’s Fargo Cadet Greco-Roman Championships in North Dakota.
Both Lamers should receive their toughest tests of the young season during this weekend’s Reno Tournament of Champions.
Also back for CV is heavyweight Brandon Lareau, a fourth-place finisher at last year’s MWC championships. Lareau was the Perry Burlison Classic 285 winner.
The Raiders did lose Brawley Lamer, a 2017 state champion, to graduation.
“But we are pretty deep,” Chad Lamer said. “I think the first day of practice we started out with 37 kids in our room. That’s probably 10 more than we had last year. It’s definitely grown and we’ve got a real good group of freshmen.”
Corvallis also has a strong mix of newcomers and experienced veterans. Coach Tyler Phillips said the program boasts around 16 freshmen and a dozen seniors.
Serrano Patrick (145), Alejandro Villicana (126) and Porter Johnson (220) are three of the Spartans’ top seniors. A season ago, Villicana and Johnson placed fifth at districts while Patrick went 2-2.
“Serrano is probably the most naturally gifted wrestler I’ve ever seen,” Phillips said. “He’s quick, fast and strong. He just needs to pull it all together.”
Sophomore Izaak Worsch, a returning state competitor, has wrestled at 160 and 170 this year. Phillips hopes Worsch can get down to 152 for the MWC championships, which run Feb. 9-10 in Silverton.
“He is a competitor at any weight,” Phillips said of Worsch. “He has gotten bigger, and I want him to work from the feet a little more. Just because you did get bigger doesn’t mean you have to wrestle like a big guy.”
The Rebels had two quarterfinalists at the Coast Classic: seniors Anthony Pulido (126) and Angel Huerta-Carrera (285). Both wrestlers have state experience.
A season ago, South defeated Lebanon in a MWC dual and placed third at the district meet.
“This should be a pretty fun year as far as our returners,” Peterson said. “We’ve got a big group of seniors that will be exciting to watch and a decent mix of them through the lineup. It’s definitely been nice because they know what the expectations are.”
Chandler Villarreal is back with the Rebels after wrestling for West Albany the past two seasons. Villarreal made it to state as a freshman in 2015 and a junior for the Bulldogs.
Villarreal has competed at 160 this year.
“He’s a great asset for us,” Peterson said.
South will be competing at Friday’s Weisbrodt Invitational, hosted by Lebanon.
Warriors teammates Rian Howard (113) and Chase Miller (152) topped their respective brackets at last weekend’s Rose City Championships. Howard, a sophomore, also won the 113 title at the Perry Burlison Classic.
“The biggest thing (Howard) did in the offseason is he went out for cross-country,” Cox said. “It helped with his toughness, kept his body fat down and kept him competing, chasing a guy every day.”
Miller placed fifth at state as a freshman and missed the 2016-17 season after suffering a knee injury while playing football.
“He has picked up right where he left off,” Cox said. “He is a stud and is not afraid of anybody.”
Fellow returnees Wyatt Richardson, Cody Kleint, Landon Kisling, Marick Best, Joseph Blisseck and Caleb Wynn were all state participants last year. Wynn is out with a knee injury but could return by the district meet.
Freshman 195-pounder Keith Brown scored a signature win over North Marion’s Matt Carillo during the Cascade Duals. Carillo was 4A’s fourth-ranked 182-pounder in the latest Oregon Wrestling Forum ratings.
“Keith is a big, tough freshman,” Cox said. “He’s 6-foot-1 and every bit of 195. He looks like he’s 19 but he’s only 14.”