Having to cut weight to wrestle at 184 pounds took the fun out of wrestling for Max Hane during his redshirt junior season at Southern Oregon University.
“Last year I hated wrestling because I was cutting so much,” Hane, a former state wrestling champion at Roseburg High School, told me during a phone interview on Friday following practice. “I was cutting 16 to 20 pounds a week. I didn’t want to go compete, I felt so awful.”
Hane won 14 matches last year, but didn’t wrestle in the Cascade Collegiate Conference Championships. A broken arm ended his sophomore season early the previous season.
“I was thinking about quitting,” Hane admitted. “But I told myself I can’t quit. Steve Lander (the head coach at Roseburg) and the other coaches have done so much for me.”
Following the season, Hane decided to move up two weight classes to 285 pounds, figuring that was his best opportunity to make the lineup. He wouldn’t have to cut weight again.
“I couldn’t beat my buddy (Tanner Fischer, a redshirt senior who achieved NAIA All-America honors in 2017) at 197,” Hane said.
Hane, 23, earned the starting spot at 285 this season and despite being an undersized heavyweight at 220 he’s holding his own.
He’s 8-2 on the season and is 5-0 in dual meets. Hane pinned San Francisco State’s Antonio Gomez in 1:59 on Saturday, giving the Raiders a 25-24 win over the Division II Gators at Bob Riehm Arena in Ashland.
Hane has four dual wins by fall and one by technical fall. He owns 41 career victories at SOU.
“It’s like starting over. It’s just fun now,” Hane said. “Every day is another day to have fun. I’m just having fun and getting after people. I was raised to feel good and wrestle good, and I feel great. I’ve put on 40 pounds in less than a year. I feel a lot stronger and haven’t got tired ... it’s like night and day, not even comparable to last year.”
Hane is motivated to accomplish some things during his final college wrestling season. He’s never qualified for the NAIA Championships and is hoping to represent the Raiders at nationals March 1-2 in Des Moines, Iowa. He also wants to be a conference champion.
“I’d like to be an All-American or a national champ, that’s what I’m shooting for,” he said. “I know I can beat those guys. I can push the pace and make things happen.”
Mike Ritchey, in his 24th year as SOU’s head coach, is pleased to see Hane happy.
“I think (wrestling at 285) has been a good move for him,” Ritchey said. “He’s had a couple of big guys give him some fits, but for the most part he does fine. Max is pretty fast and can wrestle like a lightweight. He’s learning, but I think he’s adapted well.
“He’s wrestled some of the better kids in the conference and done OK. I don’t want to put pressure on him, but I expect him to be in the All-American round (at nationals).”
Ritchey appreciates what Hane brings to the practice room.
“He’s a great kid, an inspiration to his teammates,” the coach said. “He’s a born leader, he likes to push guys. It’s nice to have a guy like that, pushing the team.”
Hane says there’s plenty of quality practice partners, including Fischer and redshirt juniors C.J. McKinnis (184) and Ryland Boyer (285).
“I’m getting a wide range of competition,” Hane said.
One of the highlights this season came in a dual against Eastern Oregon in La Grande, when Hane pinned Justin Wilson in just 12 seconds. That clinched the Raiders’ 28-17 win in the “Wagontire” matchup.
“Max went out and took care of business,” Ritchey said. “He pinned the guy, walked over and brought the (Wagontire) trophy over to our bench.”
Hane said, “That was pretty cool. I shot high, put him in a cradle and pinned him (Wilson) in front of his fans.”
Hane, a health and PE major, made Academic All-Cascade Collegiate Conference last winter. He’s scheduled to graduate in the spring.
Coaching could be in his future.
“I’d like to help kids move on and put them on the right path, just like Steve Lander and coach Ritchey did for me,” Hane said.
Yes, I’m giving a plug for my older brother’s latest book.
If you’re looking for a good sports book to buy during the holiday season, it’s about the Portland Trail Blazers and an excellent read.
“Jail Blazers — How the Portland Trail Blazers Became the Bad Boys of Basketball,” details the NBA team’s successful yet troubled run during the late ‘90s and early 2000s. Kerry Eggers, who covered the Trail Blazers during this controversial era, goes back to share the stories from the players, coaches, management and those in Portland when the players were in the headlines as much for their play as for their legal issues.
Rasheed Wallace, Zach Randolph, Ruben Patterson, Bonzi Wells and J.R. Rider were among the problem players during the Jail Blazer era.
The book can be ordered through Amazon.