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Lakewood Cougars in metamorphosis
LAKEWOOD — Fresh off the Cougars’ first individual state champion in school history, they’ve got another contender entering the season.
Senior Keely Caldwell, who finished fifth in the 130-pound weight class at last year’s Mat Classic is one of the front runners.
Ranked 12th in the nation in her weight class by the United States Girls Wrestling Association, Caldwell lost to eventual state champion Kelsey Klein of Hoqium in the quarterfinal.
“If things go right, she could be in the championship match,” said Lakewood coach Tom O’Hara. “You never know what will happen, but she is doing all the things that it takes to get there.”
O’Hara was one of the Cougars’ four state participants last season, along with state champion Christina Ordonez (152), Autumn Novak (160) and Billy McKeever (160) — all seniors.
“We’re going to be green this year,” O’Hara said. “We’ve got a pretty solid corps of lettermen, but we’ll still be green.”
One of those top returners is heavyweight junior Alex Wilson.
Last year Wilson’s season ended at the district meet.
Outside of Wilson, the middleweights are where the Cougars have the most experience and have higher expectations, starting with 119-pound sophomore grappler Steven Speer.
Speer will be followed by sophomore Wayloan Gwyther (125) and senior Nolan Knutson at 135 pounds.
“Those guys all showed tremendous improvement at the end of last year and we’re seeing that transfer over to practice this year,” O’Hara said.
With five returning seniors, O’Hara is still looking for those couple of wrestlers to step into the leadership role and motivate the rest. His hope is in 160-pounder Josh McKamey, who he said showed that ability last year, but appeared to be waiting his turn.
But none of those have their spot cemented, as O’Hara was very clear that many of his junior varsity wrestlers could challenge for varsity this year.
“Some of these kids could learn an arm bar next week and take it all the way to the tournament,” he said.
As far as the Cascade Conference goes, O’Hara said the team-to-beat title belongs to Cedarcrest, which he said retained a number of wrestlers from last season.
“They’re always tough, but who knows after that?” he said. “We’ll all be looking for that second spot after them, because it is totally up in the air.”