LINCOLN CITY — The state wrestling meet in Portland next week is going to feature some of the best wrestlers in the area, including the Tigers from Lincoln City.
After Saturday’s districts performance, Taft will be sending five wrestlers, or “Five Alive” as head coach Robb Ellis calls them, to the state wrestling meet, in hopes of another great performance.
“We ended up passing Rainier and Yamhill-Carlton, and a lot of the credit goes to the kids,” Ellis said. “You still score points if you get sixth place in your bracket, and a lot of our newer wrestlers performed well around those fifth and sixth matches than the other newer wrestlers from different schools, so those kids deserve a lot of credit.”
The “Five Alive:” Jace Phippen (285 pounds), Arnoldo Ortiz (126 pounds), William Calderon (145 pounds), Jose Flores (113 pounds) and Riley Ellis (152 pounds) will fly the Taft flag high when they compete at the state tournament.
Despite the fact that Taft had fewer spots available to them for state placement, Ellis and his men focused on only what they could control.
They had to have performances on the mat and they came through.
“They are basically all qualifying for their second time,” Ellis said. “They are now part of a very special group of probably less than 15 guys that have gone to state twice.”
The five Tigers have been there before, and they know what to expect, but every year is a different animal.
Not to mention, the sheer size and fanfare around the state wrestling meet can be a distraction for wrestlers unused to the tournament.
“It’s just so overwhelming; there is this huge dome and there are 12 mats out there and thousands of people in the stands,” Ellis said. “I’m excited to take an experienced group of wrestlers into state, and I really think every single one of them has got a chance.”
They all have a great chance to do something special, but a tough battle looms for Taft — especially Ellis, who will be matched in a group with a standout from Nyssa, a matchup that will sure bring some attention. In fact, a few wrestlers avoided the Nyssa standout’s bracket entirely, but Ellis is a different cat.
“That could help Riley out a bit because there will be a few less wrestlers that are just super studs, so that should give Riley a better chance of getting through,” Ellis said. “But he works extremely hard, and I know he’ll do his best on the mat.”