There’s a famous quote from American playwright David Mamet: “Old age and treachery will always beat youth and exuberance.”
The Roseburg High wrestling team will put that phrase to the test this weekend as the Indians again try to climb to the top of the Class 6A ladder at the OSAA State Championships on Friday and Saturday at Portland’s Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
The Tribe, gunning for its seventh consecutive state team championship, are sending a 17-man contingent to this year’s tournament, including eight seniors. Four of those seniors have never seen their Roseburg team leave Portland without the coveted blue trophy.
“We’re planning on winning it,” Roseburg coach Steve Lander said. “Whether we can or not is what we’ll find out Saturday.”
Roseburg — with its 10 returning state tournament qualifiers and seven returning placers — would appear to be playing from behind from the onset. The Indians are ranked No. 2 in the final Oregon Wrestling Forum Class 6A poll behind Newberg, which brings the most wrestlers into the tournament with 22 qualifiers.
“We’ve been considered the underdogs the last two years and it’s been a barn-burner,” said senior 152-pounder Tristin David, a two-time state placer. “If we just go out and do what we’re supposed to do, it will be just fine.”
Roseburg, on the strength of its wrestlers in the consolation bracket, held off the Bruins for the 2019 championship by a margin of 263-258 in team points.
David, Rourke Martin (182, sixth last season), Cameron Cross (113, four-time qualifier) and Archer Bergeron (145, three-time placer) have had a hand in at least one of Roseburg’s last three championship runs, and figure to play a big role this weekend as well.
“I’m aiming to be a champ,” said Bergeron, who is the No. 2 seed in his bracket after placing sixth twice and fifth as a junior this past February. “I’m tired of placing sixth and fifth. I know I can be in the finals. I just have to keep the mentality of going out and beating whoever is on the mat.”
Cross, who fell one victory shy of earning a top-six finish last season, shared Bergeron’s sentiment.
“I plan on getting on the top of the podium,” he said.
Martin, who has signed to wrestle at NCAA Division II Minot State in North Dakota next winter, is a three-time qualifier who placed sixth last season.
“Those guys are tremendously consistent with their attendance and their effort, which are two key ingredients in our program,” Lander said. “Those kids have been a model of that, and it’s nice to have them spread out (among weight classes). They’re able to have an impact on more of the lineup that way.
“I’m looking forward to a good finale for them.”
The Indians hope to accentuate the experience of its eight senior qualifiers with a group of underclassmen with their sights set squarely on individual state championships.
Sophomore Nash Singleton (120), a state runner-up last season, is ranked No. 1 by the OWF in his weight class but is the No. 3 seed in the bracket. Singleton is 30-3 on the season and won the Reno Tournament of Champions.
Junior Darian Thacker (170, 30-4) also is ranked No. 1 by the OWF and is Roseburg’s only No. 1 seed in the tournament.
In all, the Indians have nine of their 17 wrestlers in top-six seeded positions in their brackets, including No. 2-seeded junior Kahleb Diaz (126) — a two-time state placer — and senior Colin Rietmann (160), who placed fifth last season.
“We have a more realistic chance to have more kids in the finals than we did last year (two),” Lander said. “This year, we have some guys we believe are capable of winning the tournament. Multiple guys.”
While Newberg and Roseburg would be the prohibitive favorites, both can expect a challenge from third-ranked Sprague and its 16 entrants, and the 17 wrestlers representing fourth-ranked Mountain View.
Newberg’s last state championship came in 2009, when the Tigers edged Roseburg 189-174.5. With their clashes at the Oregon Wrestling Classic dual meet tournament and the annual Reser’s Tournament of Champions, the schools have developed a bit of a rivalry.
“It’s definitely a friendly rivalry,” said Newberg coach Neil Russo, who’s in his 23rd season leading the Tigers and is close friends with Lander. “We’ve been close since high school. We went to Oregon State together. Our kids are about the same age. We’ve been on vacations together.
“We always know we’re going to get Roseburg’s best effort. This weekend, we probably won’t say a lot to each other. It becomes all business until it’s over.
“Then, we’re going crabbing.”
Should Roseburg win its seventh consecutive state title, it would tie Nyssa (2000-06, Class 2A/1A) for the second longest streak in state history behind Burns’ 10 consecutive Class 3A titles from 2002-11. It would also be the Indians’ 13th title overall, moving within one of all-time leader Lowell’s 14.