Usually by late February the Ashland High wrestling room seems a little more spacious than usual, and a little less noisy, too.
Not this season. On Tuesday, three days after the District 4 championships and two days after the girls high school state meet qualifier, the Grizzlies' mat room was bustling with activity. That's because for seven Grizzlies — three boys and four girls — one of the best seasons in program history is still going strong.
All seven have qualified for next week's state championships in Portland's Memorial Coliseum. There, Ashland head coach Tony Champion is confident that at least one Grizzly — and, he hopes, a few more — will break through and give the school its first individual state champion since Charles Taylor won the unlimited weight class title in 1973.
"Going into a big tournament like this, nobody's ever a lock," Champion said. "All we can do is prepare them the best we can physiologically, and mentally they've got to start seeing themselves on that winner's podium."
That's exactly where Champion hopes Mason Montgomery, Cody Frost-Eisenberg and Sadie Bailey will be come March 1. Montgomery is expected to be one of the top two seeds in the 220-pound weight class, Frost-Eisenberg will likely be one of the top three seeds at 285 and Bailey is expected to be No. 1 in the girls 128-pound division.
Also representing the Grizzlies at state will be Chance Swenson (195), and in the girls tournament Sofie Bogdanove (115), Sydney Norvell (134) and Ditte Rossau (154).
After dominating the District 4 meet Montgomery was preparing for state Tuesday by sparring Frost-Eisenberg, who is similar in body type to a wrestler who figures to be one of Montgomery's top challengers: West Albany senior Steely Smith.
Montgomery (23-0), who was 3-0 with three quick pins at districts, will be trying to cap his senior season with his biggest win yet after placing third at 195 two years ago and second at 195 last year.
"You can't be overconfident," Montgomery said. "You have to have the same intensity in every match. And if it's a guy you know you should beat, you want to beat him faster. So the intensity's the same, but the goals are different."
Frost-Eisenberg (22-2), who was 3-0 with two pins at districts, is looking forward to possibly getting another crack at West Albany's Devon Wade, who beat Frost-Eisenberg 4-2 back on Dec. 21. Frost-Eisenberg's other loss was against North Bend's Mason Laird the same day.
"I don't want to say I just had a bad day, but it really was," Frost-Eisenberg said of his two-loss performance at the Grants Pass Winter Kickoff.
Since Frost-Eisenberg will weigh in at around 220 pounds, he says he'll have to use his quickness to overcome his lack of size relative to most of his opponents.
"I know there are some pretty big guys," he said, "so I'm going to try not to be straight on. They're going to out muscle me so angles for me are my No. 1 attack."
Bailey pinned her first two opponents at the state qualifier in Corvallis on Sunday before claiming an 8-2 decision over Kiera Gabaldon of North Salem in the championship bout. Gabaldon won two national titles before her eighth-grade year and placed second in the Bay Cities Invitational in December. Bailey, meanwhile, is a first-year wrestler.
"I was like, wow, this is actually happening," Bailey said of her win over Gabaldon, who also appeared in Sports Illustrated. "I was so proud."
Joe Zavala can be reached at 541-776-4469 or email@example.com.