The Umpqua Community College men’s wrestling team’s inaugural 2017-18 season kicks off Saturday as the Riverhawks travel to Susanville, California, to compete at Lassen Community College.

In the first year of the program, the Riverhawks have 13 freshmen and three sophomores competing in the National Junior College Athletic Association Region 18.

All 16 student athletes are from Oregon. Four local athletes are on the first UCC wrestling squad. Ian Thomas and Matt McDowell of Roseburg High School, Isaiah Lepre of Sutherlin High School, Brayden Schultz of Douglas High School.

“Part of the reason we added wrestling is because there are so many wrestlers in Douglas County,” UCC Athletic Director Craig Jackson said. “We have a lot of local kids who compete and place in the state championships from Douglas County so we have a lot of local kids we can plug into our program. We’re excited about that.”

The Riverhawks are coached by Kyle Temple, who wrestled at Sweet Home High School while taking part in two state runner-up teams. Temple later attended Southern Oregon University where he wrestled and qualified for nationals his senior year.

“I think it’s amazing for the state, to have another college opportunity to have wrestling,” Temple said. “I think we’re in a prime location to recruit kids and build a program. Douglas County is a great wrestling county, and we are centrally located in the middle of Oregon. We’re close to California and we’re on Interstate 5. It’s awesome that Umpqua added a program and allows kids to continue their careers here in the state.”

The Riverhawks first home match is Dec. 15 against Clackamas Community College, a Region 18 powerhouse. Clackamas was runner-up in the national championships in 2017 and 2015 after winning it all in 2011 under coach Josh Rhoden.

Also in Region 18 is Highline Community College, North Idaho Community College, and Southwest Oregon Community College.

Temple was an assistant coach at Sweet Home High School when they won the 2009 OSAA Class 4A championship. He went on to coach Sprague High School to a second place finish in 2011 in the 6A state tournament in his first year as a head coach. He also had success coaching at Stayton and Cottage Grove.

“I was an average college wrestler, everything I got out of wrestling I put into it,” Temple said. “I wanted to go into teaching and I assisted at Sweet Home where I trained higher technique to the higher level wrestlers. We had pretty successful runs at every place.”

“I’d love to coach at the college level, I was the director for the Oregon Wrestling Association for juniors (high school). But I didn’t know if I would get this opportunity,” Temple said. “The transition so far has been really smooth. My position has given me contacts with a lot of great recruits in Oregon and Washington.”

“His (Temple) association with the cadet program is huge for us because he sees all the kids,” Jackson said. “He has relationships with them so he brings a lot of top recruits in from all around Oregon.”

Schultz finished his senior season with a third place finish at the OSAA 4A championships last year.

Thomas was the state runner-up both his sophomore and senior year while an injury cost him his junior season.

“It’s a new program, so we don’t have guys who have wrestled before in college so we’re young,” Temple said. “It’s going to be a learning curve adjusting to the college rules and the intensity at this level. Many of our guys haven’t competed out of Oregon, so it’ll be a great learning experience as we travel. There is a lot of excitement and buzz with these kids to compete just as bad as I want to coach these guys.”

Josh Hammers is a two-time OSAA 4A state champion from Mazama High School in Klamath Falls.

Jose Candelas is also a two-time 3A state champion at 182 pounds from Nyssa High School.

Jackson believes the program will double in size next year based on the growth of the program.

Part-time sports reporter Josh Gaunt can be reached at 541-957-4220 or via email at jgaunt@nrtoday.com.

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