WINTHROP – Liberty Bell High School, the defending state 2B wrestling champions, should again be the team to beat this year.
The Mountain Lions graduated only two – champion Justin McMillan and second-place Taylor Woodruff – from a group of six that reached the finals last year.
Liberty Bell, coached by Paul Schmekel, enters the season with only 120 and 182 pounds open.
Those returning having reached the state finals last year include Trent Skelton, Emmett Fink, Jacob McMillan and Milo Holston. Liberty Bell opens the season at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Okanogan Jamboree.
OKANOGAN — Okanogan High School starts the season with a wrestler at all weights.
“We are pretty lucky, we have every weight class filled up right now, knock on wood there,” assistant coach Lee Morrison said. “That’s not been like that for a long time.”
Morrison, a 2004 graduate (full team that year, too), is assisting coach Andy Knutson.
Leading the way will be sophomore Tony Klepec, who was eighth at state last year.
“We are expecting big things out of him,” Morrison said.
Also back with state experience is Anthony Payton.
The Bulldogs, who have about 23 wrestlers, open the season hosting its jamboree at 7 p.m. Thursday.
Other teams competing will be Brewster, Liberty Bell, Lake Roosevelt and Omak.
Okanogan will be at Omak’s Pioneer Invitational Tournament at 10 a.m. Saturday.
Chelan and Quincy would be considered frontrunners for the Caribou Trail League championship, Morrison said.
“They have the older kids and the numbers,” he said.
Okanogan will be right in the mix with Tonasket, Omak and Cashmere, the fourth year assistant said.
OMAK — Omak High School will start slowly and build toward postseason.
The Pioneers open the season without a heavyweight, a first in a long time, and no one at 113.
Seniors Cody Harvill, who placed fifth at state, and Jacob Cutrell, who placed eighth at state last year, will pace Omak.
Alex Aguilar, a junior, is out for now with a back injury. He was third in state last year.
“We won’t have all the weights filled for about three weeks,” coach Dewy Ives said. “We have a few 220s that might buff up, but nothing like 240. We had quite a streak (of heavyweights) going there for a while.
“We should have a pretty solid team. Some kids that did not go to state have a real good shot this year. I think our season will go well.”
Ives points to Tonasket, Chelan and Quincy as the powerhouse teams in the Caribou Trail League.
“I think it will be a good season in the CTL this year,” Ives said.
Omak competes in the Okanogan Jamboree at 7 p.m. Thursday then hosts its own Pioneer Invitational Tournament at 7 p.m. Saturday.
TONASKET — Tonasket High School fields a huge team with four seniors with good experience and eight freshmen looking strong in practice.
The Tigers appear to have all weights filled except 182 at the start of the season. That could be filled later as wrestlers go through the state’s mandated weight program.
Those with state experience include Collin Aitcheson, who placed fifth at state, as well as Jorge Juarez and John Rawley.
Tonasket also has two alternates to state, junior Frank Holfeltz and sophomore Trevor Peterson.
“I think we will be pretty solid,” Tonasket coach Dave Mitchell said. “We have half a dozen pretty tough veterans back. We have a pretty big turnout, but a lot of them have not wrestled before. They have to do some catching up.”
The Tigers also will have a bit of international flavor with Ulukbeck Beishokeev from Kyrgyzstan and Caio Baumstein from Brazil.
“The power in the league will probably be the same as last year, Chelan and Quincy,” Mitchell said. “Quincy has a few seniors, but they have a lot of people back. Chelan has a lot of people back.”
Tonasket opens the season at 10 a.m. Saturday at the Pioneer Invitational Tournament in Omak.
BREWSTER — Brewster boasts nine boys and six girls this year.
“We are probably down five or six kids,” Brewster coach Kip Apple said.
The Bears have several quality wrestlers led by heavyweight Adrian Urias, senior, at heavyweight, and Raf Varelas, junior, at 145.
“I expect Adrian to get down to 220,” Apple said. “Raf is about 145 at the moment.”
The girls will include lots of experience led by Judith Carrillo, who is back for her fourth year.
Also back are her sister, Leslie Carrillo, for her second year, and Jennifer Gomez, back for her third year, and Anna Orozco, for a second year.
Competition is keen for a girls berth to state, Apple said. The tournament, held in conjunction with the boys tournament, is all comers – Bs to 4A.
Schools in Western Washington have 13 berths compared to three berths for the east side.
“Ninety percent of the girls wrestling are on the west coast,” Apple said. “We are growing. There are definitely more girls over here every year.”
Othello, Quincy and Warden have a lot of girls.
As for the boys, Apple said Chelan and Quincy followed by Cashmere could be the top teams.
Brewster opens the season at 5:30 p.m. today at the Eastmont Junior Varsity Mix-N-Match in East Wenatchee followed by the Okanogan Jamboree at 7 pm. Thursday and Omak’s Pioneer International Tournament at 10 a.m. Saturday.
“We are starting off with a bang,” Apple said. “It’s better to be busy than practicing all the time. That gets boring after a while.”
OROVILLE — The Oroville High School wrestling team opens with 14 wrestlers, which is down three or four from the average team size at the start of a season, coach Chuck Ricevuto said.
“So, the challenge will be to keep them out, eligible and healthy,” the coach said.
The team will be led by state veteran Jordan Smith and state alternate Taylor Robinson.
“We will eventually fill 10 of the 14 weight classes,” Ricevuto said.
The coach said “hands down” Liberty Bell was the region’s 2B power and “should attain back-to-back state championships.
“As usual, Lake Roosevelt, Kittitas, Reardan, Selkirk, Pomeroy and add White Swan to the picture as Top 10 candidates,” Ricevuto said.
Oroville opens the season at the Junior Varsity Mix-N-Match at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at Eastmont High school.
The Hornets are at Davenport High School’s tournament at 10 a.m. Saturday.
REPUBLIC — Curlew and Republic will train wrestlers separately then come together under Republic coach Jack Hamilton.
Josh Jager is the head coach and Talon Venturo the assistant coach at Curlew.
Jager, a Republic graduate and state champion in 2002 at 140 pounds, credited a Little Guys Wrestling program for those in fifth to eighth grade leading to the school having such good numbers this year (eight).
Venturo, 27, attended Lakewood in Arlington, where he wrestled. He attended Lindenwood University in Missouri on an athletic/academic scholarship.
Cole Sailor, a transfer student, is the lone wrestler with experience, Athletic Director Charlie Groth said.
The combined team will compete at the Selkirk Jamboree on Thursday and at Kettle Falls on Saturday.
COULEE DAM — Lake Roosevelt High School’s wrestling team will be paced by state placing wrestlers Oscar Pakootas (third), Kodie Horn (third) and Octavio Alejandre (fourth).
The Raiders open the season at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Okanogan Jamboree.