The Taft wrestling program is sending seven boys to State and a new co-head coach might be responsible for recent successes.
Co-Head Coach Mike Puckett joins Robb Ellis in managing how the Tigers operate. Puckett was a state champion in South Dakota and wrestled for Augustana University. As Ellis moves to handle more of the administrative duties, Puckett organizes practices and has been working on wrestler development.
“We have seen and advancement of skill in our wrestlers with his expertise in the room,” Ellis said. “After placing 10th as a team last year out of 24 teams in 3A, Taft’s best showing at state in history, we have a chance to improve even more as we head into this year’s state tournament.”
Tiger wrestlers finished fourth out of eight teams at Districts in Clatskanie last weekend. If the team had won two more matches, they would have passed Yamhill for third place. Taft finishing above the storied programs of Willamina and Dayton might be a testament to coach Puckett’s effect.
The seven Tiger boys headed to State as told by Co-Head Coach Ellis:
113 pounds – Senior Jose Flores. Placed second at state last year. Flores had a 12-4 record this year with all losses being to top wrestlers in the state. Flores was district champ this year and goes into state as the #1 seed in his bracket. If he wrestles well, Flores is favored to be the state champion in this weight class. He started wrestling his freshman year and this will be his third time qualifying for State. Jose keeps getting better and better and sets the tone for hard work on the team.
113 pounds – Senior Charlie Lopez-Cobos. Charlie is a first year wrestler who qualified for state in his first year wrestling as a senior. He shows an amazing gift for wrestling and it would be amazing to see how well he would do if he had another year or two to wrestle. He started off his career pinning the #1 ranked wrestler at 106 pounds in his second match of the season. He finished third at districts to qualify for state.
120 pounds – Freshman Josue Gomez. Gomez started wrestling in the Taft middle school program last year. He works hard and placed third at districts to qualify for state. He has a bright future.
120 pounds – Sophomore Kaden Byrum. Kaden enters the state tournament after being selected because of a shortage of wrestlers at 120 pounds. He’s a sophomore in his second season wrestling. He is very strong for his size and has a lot of potential to grow as a wrestler over the next couple of seasons.
132 pounds – Sophomore Diego Gomez. Brother of Josue and wrestling at 120, Diego is in his second year wrestling and placed third at districts. Diego is very into wrestling and is committed to getting better. He plans on wrestling at camps and tournaments in the off-season to improve.
152 pounds – Senior William Calderon. William placed sixth at state in only his first year of wrestling as a sophomore. He is a three time state qualifier with a lot of natural talent. Last year at state he did not place, but he had a very hard bracket with lots of talented wrestlers. Some brackets at state are tougher than others. He placed second at the district tournament and has a good chance to get on the podium this year. To get on the podium in 3A wrestling, you have to place fourth or better. They changed that from sixth place after his sophomore year.
160 pounds – Senior Riley Ellis. He should be a junior but decided to graduate early. Second at state last year, three-time state qualifier, Riley heads into his bracket as the #2 seed which makes him the second ranked wrestler in the nine man bracket. He has a tough bracket this year and will have to really wrestle well to see the podium again, but he has a good chance to do so. His record is 14-5 this year and all of his losses are to top wrestlers in the state.
The Tiger boys take to the mat at Redmond High School Saturday, June 26.