The Grizzlies' numbers are low, but to head coach Joe Crane, expectations are sky high.
Ashland High will bring five wrestlers to Saturday's Southern Sky Conference district meet, and Crane believes all five have a legitimate shot at advancing to next week's state meet.
The district meet begins at 10:50 a.m. at Klamath Union High School, where the top three placers in each of the 14 weight classes will move on to state.
One Grizzly has already qualified for state. Senior 121-pounder Claire Dawson placed high enough at a girls wrestling qualifying event in Cottage Grove recently — there's a separate girls-only state tournament — to punch her ticket to the main event. Crane received the confirmation e-mail Thursday and said Dawson has earned it.
"She is the most disciplined, hard-working kid I've ever been around in my life," Crane said of Dawson, who placed second at the Coquille Invitational earlier this season. "She's actually brought our practices up a level because she'll be the one going, 'Come on coach, let's have a harder practice. Come on coach, work us harder. Come on coach, that wasn't that hard.' Meanwhile you've got all the rest of the guys ranked in the state, laying on the mat, too tired to do anything."
Three Grizzlies were seeded in the top three of their respective weight classes: Sam Cowan is seeded No. 2 at 285, Jake Scarminach is seeded No. 2 at 160 and Christian Ostmo is seeded No. 3 at 189. Ashland's 215-pounder, Alec Ralston, is on the same side of a seven-man bracket as No. 2 Jake Cox of Mazama and No. 3 Lane Auguston of Crater; and Ashland 135-pounder, Cody Remington, is on the same side of the bracket as No. 2 seed Travis Wood of Eagle Point.
"My hope was getting (Remington) away from (top seed Trent Kaiser of Eagle Point) and that's what we did so Cody's actually sitting great," Crane said.
Scarminach, Remington and Cowan qualified for state last season.
Ostmo has a first-round bye and will face unseeded Louis Lucas of Eagle Point in the quarterfinals. If he survives that one, he'll likely draw No. 2 seed Jesse Earle of Mazama in the semis. Crane said Ostmo has suffered two losses to Earle this season, but Ostmo had big leads in both those matches.
Scarminach will not have to face top-seeded Steven Josephson of Eagle Point until the finals, but could meet No. 3 seed Brandon McFarland of Crater in the semifinals.
Cowan also avoided the top seed in his bracket (that's Will Morse of Klamath Union) but may square off against No. 3 seed Manuel Valdovinos of Eagle Point in the semis.