Last year, the Lakers were one of the best junior college teams in the nation, with a 6th place finish at the NJCAA Nationals and four All-Americans. This season, however, the Lakers will have the backs up against the wall and look to their returning wrestlers to lead them back to the top once again.
The Lakers return two All-Americans from last years team in Joseph Michel(8th at 141lbs.) and Zach Pagnotta(5th at 165lbs). Michel will have a lot of weight on his shoulders this year to not only return to the national tournament and be a leader on this young Laker team, but also improve on last year's performance and bring home another All-American medal. Pagnotta begin wrestling in the winter term.
"We are expecting him(Michel) to really step it up this year and not only win matches but also be a leader in the room. So far he has been working really hard and on the right track," said Coach Whitlatch.
Coach Whitlatch will also look to some of their redshirt freshman to step up as well.
Hoping to replace two-time All-American, Josh Williams at 133 this year, will be redshirt freshman, Braedy Smith of Estacada. "Brady Smith red shirted this last year and we are hoping he is going to bring it," said Whitlatch of Smith. Smith was a two-time state champ for Estacada.
Coach Whitlatch also mentioned they will look to redshirt sophomore, Fernando Pedreza at 184, to fill the void at his respective weight. Pedraza was a previous national qualifier for the Lakers. "This is Fernando’s third year here and he qualified for the national tournament, but was unable to attend due to of some family health issues in Idaho that he had to see to during the national tournament," said Whitlatch. "I am hoping that Fernando can get back there and accomplish what he set out to accomplish last year," added Whitlatch.
Freshman, Adam Fuggitt of Willamette will look to fill the shoes of Pagnotta at 165lbs during the fall season.
Along with these four wrestlers, Coach Whitlatch hopes that other wrestlers on the squad will step up to the challenge this season. The Lakers have around 33 wrestlers on the team this season, competing for a shot at varsity. Wrestlers from OR, WA, CA, OH, NV and even Mongolia are on the squad this year.
Some of this years biggest recruits for Coach Whitlatch were Mongolian National Champ, Zolboo Enkhbayar at 157, 3rd in CA and Senior Nationals 6th place, Ryan Hoover at 285 and 3-time OR state champ, Jacob Tomlin at 141/149. Zolboo will see his first action shortly after recovering from a slight ankle injury. Hoover saw his first action this past weekend with two falls in duals against Lassen and West Hills CC. tomlin will most likely redshirt.
Other surprises so far for Coach Whitlatch are incoming freshman Sean and Brendan Connolly. "Since they got here, they have displayed a tremendous work ethic and I think they could make a tremendous impact right away," said Whitlatch. "However they might redshirt this year. I am getting very excited about these two."
Another key freshman will be OH wrestler, Kyle Taylor. He was a two-time state qualifier but won all three of his matches this past weekend. "He opened some eyes, as he beat some tough competition and we will continue to expect more from him as he improves," added Whitlatch.
Here is what the Laker's lineup could look like this season with some weights yet to be decided:
John Sutten 125
Brady Smith 133
Joseph Michel 141
Kyle Taylor 149
Curt Sabey 149
Paulo Rocha 149
Zolboo Enkhbayar 157
Adam Fugitt 165
David Laird 174
Fernando Pedraza 184
Mark Chitwood 197
Nic Weyrauch 285
Ryan Hoover 285
"We are going to have an inter-squad match this weekend so that should help clear things up," said Whitlatch.
The Lakers also have quite a schedule ahead of them this season. They not only dual quite a few tough teams this season, most notably, in state rival Clackamas CC, but Regional rivals North Idaho and Western Wyoming. On top of that, they head to the Reno TOC, Menlo Open and San Fransisco Open. "We have a long and grueling schedule. The team seems excited and ready for the challenge," said Whitlatch.
Will the Lakers have what it takes this year, to have a repeat of last season's strong showing at Nationals? "Last years team was very talented with a number of returnees that accomplished a lot of things that have never happened here previously," said Whitlatch. "If this team wants to repeat that, they are going to have a tough road ahead. I think they are very capable. If they are willing to make the necessary sacrifices, I think a repeat of last season could be possible."
"Things are just starting to unfold for us here and I am excited to see how it all shakes out," added Whitlatch.
Coach Whitlatch also added that former, UO wrestler, Chris Dearmon, had recently moved to Coos Bay and has been helping out in the room. "I am glad to have him here contributing to our teams success. He has already made an impact."
Another thing that may be helping Southwestern's success on the national stage, is competing with in state rival, Clackamas CC. The team who finished one place ahead of them at NJCAA Nationals last season.
"The rivalry is good and keeps us sharp, but ultimately we are motivated and focused on the national tournament and then placing wresters after they finish wrestling here," said Whitlatch. "Oregon has always been tough on all levels of college wrestling. We are not only striving to be the best in Oregon, but the best in the nation as well."
The Lakers recently started their season off with three duals against, Lassen CC, West Hills CC and Yakima Valley CC. They went 2-1 with wins over Yakima and West Hills. Next up for the Lakers will be the Pacific Open in Forest Grove and then two more home duals against Highline CC on Nov. 9th and JC powerhouse, North Idaho on Nov. 16th. After that, the Lakers will be on the road for the remainder of the year.
Southwestern Oregon preview. http://www.theowf.net/lakers_hope_re...hem_to_the_top