WINCHESTER — With two returning regional placers and a breadth of talent in its incoming freshman class, the Umpqua Community College men’s wrestling team is on point to climb another rung or two on its regional ladder.
Sophomores Garrett Russell, from Roseburg High School, and Adam Lamb will be joined by a number of wrestlers with championship pedigree as the Riverhawks look to improve on their fourth-place finish in last season’s National Junior College Athletic Association West Region tournament.
Lamb, who will wrestle at 285, and Russell (149) both qualified for last season’s national tournament after placing second and third, respectively at regionals.
Joining them are a three-time Oregon Class 3A high school state champion, a pair of two-time champs in the 5A and 4A divisions, another 4A title holder and a Reno Tournament of Champions winner as Umpqua embarks on its program’s third season.
“It’s too early to tell, but I could easily see us finishing anywhere from second to fourth (in the region),” Riverhawks head coach Kyle Temple said.
The Riverhawks opened the season ranked No. 26 nationally by Intermat.com. They are joined in their region by national powerhouse Clackamas (No. 3), North Idaho (No. 11) and Southwestern Oregon CC (No. 19).
In order to progress as a program, Umpqua will have to survive a lack of depth in the lighter weights and wrestle with lineup decisions in the middle and heavier weights.
Freshmen Tanner Ulrey (Crater H.S.) at 125 pounds, Chris Montelongo (Pasco, Washington) at 133, Logan Folsom (174, Roseburg) and sophomore Kobe Olson (141, Sweet Home) are the lone wrestlers in their weight classes.
After that, Temple and his assistants — Ian Thomas and grad assistant Dallas O’Bryan — could be faced with some difficult decisions.
Russell will be joined at 149 by a three-time Oregon state champion in Titus Mejia, who was a four-time finalist at Creswell and Pleasant Hill. Two-time state champ Austin Watson (Thurston) and Leki Tongi (Hawaii) will battle for mat time at 157, as will 2019 Class 4A state champion Caleb Werner (Tillamook) and Johnathan Hernandez (Neosho CC, Kansas) at 165.
Hernandez will be a slightly late arrival to full-time wrestling duties as he also competes on Umpqua’s obstacle course racing team.
“We feel pretty confident that our guys will be able to compete at every weight no matter who we throw out there,” Temple said. “We’re just going to try and get them the experience depending on how the matches are going.”
The toughest decisions for Temple will come in the three heaviest weight classes.
Sophomore Tayler Davis will initially front a quintet of men at 184 points, but he’ll be challenged by four freshmen: a two-time Oregon state finalist in Macoy Christman (Turner/Cascade), a 2018 Reno Tournament of Champions winner in Jullian Stone (North Medford), 2018 Class 2A runner-up William Kidwell (Glendale) and another Roseburg product in Hunter Hillard.
“The best thing about the tournaments is that we can enter as many guys as we want to pay for, so we’re going to get those guys in there, let them wrestle and figure out the best lineup,” Temple said.
At 197, sophomore Hayden Juliano (South Salem) and two-time Class 4A state champion Louie Sanchez-Rivera (Turner/Cascade) will do battle, as will Lamb and freshman Jayden De Fond (Churchill) at 285.
While Intermat.com lists Lamb as the No. 6 heavyweight in the junior college ranks, Temple said De Fond has been presenting quite the challenge in the workout room.
“Adam and De Fond have had some pretty good battles, “Temple said. “Adam wasn’t supposed to be our No. 1 guy last year, but took over after an injury (to O’Bryan). I really believe if he’s 100 percent, he’s an All-American.”
While Umpqua can enlist as many wrestlers as it likes for regular-season tournaments, the Riverhawks will be allowed only one entry per class at the regional championships.
“It’s really not a bad problem to have,” Temple said. “Competition breeds success. To continually have that competition push us in the room, it makes the mat performance even better.”
The Riverhawks will hit the mat for their second tournament of the season Sunday at Pacific University in Forest Grove for the Mike Clock Open. Umpqua’s first home event of the season will be a West region dual meet with SWOCC at 5 p.m. on Dec. 7.