The addition of Oregon’s Hermiston High School, located just 12 miles from the Washington state line, for athletic competition as a member of the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association should be of particular interest to Wesco 3A wrestling teams.
Hermiston, which will be a 3A school when it joins the WIAA for the 2018-19 school year, has dominated the past decade of wrestling in Oregon at the 5A classification, winning nine of the past 11 team championships despite undergoing three coaching changes during that span.
The Bulldogs have produced a slew of wrestlers who are competing at the next level, including current collegians Tyler Berger (Nebraska), Joey Delgado (Oregon State) and Sam Colbray (Iowa State).
And depending on how the WIAA sets up the regional format to begin a new cycle for the 2018-19 school year, Wesco wrestlers could find themselves in direct competition with Hermiston for state-tournament berths.
Wesco joined with the three 3A schools in the Mid-Columbia Conference — Kamiakin, Kennewick and Southridge — for the 2016-17 3A Region 3 tournament that was held at Everett High School, with the top four wrestlers in each weight class advancing to the Tacoma Dome for Mat Classic.
Hermiston will join the Mid-Columbia Conference when it joins the WIAA, so if the current setup stays in place, the Bulldogs would add another infusion of talent to an already stacked regional.
Kamiakin and Southridge placed first and second, respectively, in the team standings at the 15-team Everett regional, and the three Tri-Cities schools accounted for 12 out of the 28 finalists.
“It’s going to be interesting,” said Edmonds-Woodway coach Brian Alfi, who served as an at-large member of the Washington State Wrestling Coaches’ Association Executive Board this past school year. “They’re a really fantastic program and have produced multiple college wrestlers. Some schools weren’t happy with the regional setup this year, so we’ll have to see what happens.”
Even if Hermiston doesn’t end up in the same regional as the Wesco 3A schools, recent local powers such as Arlington, Edmonds-Woodway, Everett and Marysville Pilchuck likely will have to contend with the Bulldogs in Tacoma for team and individual championships.
“Obviously if we end up being in their region, some people might not be too happy about it if Hermiston is bumping some of their guys out of state berths,” Arlington coach Jonny Gilbertson said. “But if that’s the case, we’ll just have to battle, and obviously if not, we’ll see them at state. Wrestling is wrestling, and may the best guy win. We shouldn’t be trying to run from competition. If we up the competition, it can drive everyone to elevate themselves.”
Although Hermiston is no slouch in other sports, the Bulldogs’ wrestling program is by far the most successful on a state level.
Hermiston won the 2014 5A football title in Oregon, along with three consecutive girls tennis crowns in 2007, 2008 and 2009.
The Bulldogs have been runners-up at state in girls track three times (2007, 2009, 2010), girls basketball twice (2008, 2015) and in softball once (2013).