Sandy starts winter practice with high expectations

by: POST PHOTO: KRISTOPHER ANDERSON - Sandy Pioneer Kyle Bateman, bottom, is the states top-ranked wrestler at 160 pounds, while senior Tyler White, top, is ranked seventh at 145 pounds.

Sandy’s wrestling team, which has won three consecutive Northwest Oregon Conference titles, is embracing lofty expectations as it starts preparation for the 2012-13 season.

“We are the school that people want to beat,” head coach Robert Paul says. “But we have reasons to believe we could be better than the last couple of years.”

As the Pioneers begin their question for a four-peat, sizing up possible threats to that achievement also ensues. According to Paul, Sandy’s toughest opponent this season will be Liberty, however, the coach is confident his squad has the advantage.

“Liberty has a bunch of returning kids,” Paul says. “But if you put their really good kids against our really good kids, I think we’ll win that one.”

Several of the Pioneers’ wrestlers have obtained pre-season notoriety, including senior Kyle Bateman, who is the top-ranked grappler in the 160-pound weight class, according to The Oregon Wrestling Forum.

Also in the mix is Jeremy Funk, ranked fourth at 195 pounds, Brandon Mowery, ranked third at 138 pounds, and Tyler White, ranked seventh at 145 pounds.

Paul says that with the majority of his wrestlers returning this season and several of last year’s underclassmen better adept to 5A competition, this team has the maturity and ability to exceed previous results.

“This group of seniors has never not won a conference title,” Paul says. “They know there’s pressure, but they know they can do it. It’s a pride thing. And from watching practice, you can see these guys are pretty serious.”

Sandy’s recent achievements has also earned state-wide respect.

After apply for entrancement during the previous seven years, the Pioneers were finally accepted to participate in the “Coast Classic,” a tournament in Coos Bay that encompasses schools from all levels. It’ll be an early season challenge that will test Sandy’s prestigious billing.

“It’s one of the tougher tournaments,” Paul says. “It’s definitely more difficult than the state tournament.”

With the tournament starting Nov. 30, Sandy is faced with the difficulty of being limited to three weeks of pre-season practice. That means the Pioneers are scrambling to reach regular season form by focusing the majority of practices on conditioning.

“We’re really pushing the pace in practice,” Paul says. “That’s what’s going to be needed to be ready for the first competition.”

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