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Central Linn joins heavyweights at state wrestling meet.

Byline: Steve Mims The Register-Guard

HALSEY - Central Linn heavyweight Cole Logan was discussing the pressure of being ranked No. 1 in the state while teammate Justin Branson listened nearby.

"I thought about asking the pollsters to remove my name because it seems like every year one person is top-ranked and undefeated and everyone says they are going to do good and then they lose at state," Logan said. "I don't want that person to be me."

Branson sheepishly raised his hand to acknowledge that he was that person last year.

Branson was undefeated and seeded first at 103 pounds as a junior entering the OSAA Class 2A/1A wrestling tournament but lost to Nyssa's Mark Beck 8-2 in the semifinals. He bounced back to finish third.

Branson is, once again, the top seed entering the state meet this weekend at The Pavilion at the Oregon State Fairgrounds in Salem. However, he does not bring an undefeated record because he moved up a couple of weights and lost to Oakridge's Alan Manderscheid at 119.

"I didn't wrestle too well, but it took some pressure off because last year I was undefeated and lost and I took it pretty hard," Branson said.

Central Linn coach Mike Day believes Branson is one of the top two or three wrestlers in the state at 103, regardless of classification.

"If his game is on and he makes no mistakes, he should win state," Day said. "It all comes down to keeping his head in it. Last year he was picked to win and lost in the semis, and he beat the kid who won state twice during the season. He has used that as motivation, and it may have helped this year that he lost a match to take the pressure off of being undefeated."

Logan is the one who carries an undefeated record into state at 36-0 after winning the district title at 275 on Saturday. The senior is the top seed at state after placing fourth as a junior.

"There's a lot of pressure, but it's nice to know you have the No. 1 spot," Logan said. "But that keeps you focused and you have to keep your eye on the goal because you have to battle everyone else."

Logan has been part of youth wrestling programs at Central Linn since fifth grade.

"Most people look at him and he doesn't look like a heavyweight," Day said. "He's about 5-10 and 270, so he's really not that big. He has been able to pile up wins and he is a heck of a thrower. A lot of people look at him and think he's just going to throw you, but he is now a shooter and a takedown artist, too."

Thomas Kallai and Hunter Thornton also won district titles for the Cobras at 130 and 140 pounds, respectively. Kallai and Thornton are each seeded third at state.

Tyler Sloan and Ken Bagg qualified for state by finishing second in districts at 119 and 125, respectively.

With six wrestlers qualified for state, the Cobras hope to continue their recent success at the OSAA championships. Central Linn earned a trophy with a fourth-place finish in 2003 and placed fifth last season.

Five-time defending champion Nyssa is the favorite once again but is expected to be challenged by Central Linn, Culver and Dayton.

"Nyssa is the team that everyone is gunning for," Day said. "To beat Nyssa would be something else; I can't imagine being the team to knock them off. That would be a feat in itself. Dayton almost won last year, but it came down to the 215 final and Nyssa won that."

Culver qualified 12 wrestlers for state, while Nyssa has eight and Dayton has seven.

Nyssa and Dayton each have five seeded wrestlers - including three No. 1 seeds apiece - while the Cobras have four seeded wrestlers and Culver has three.

"We have a good chance at winning, but we don't have the numbers like Nyssa has," Branson said. "That's why they've been winning, because they bring so many people to state that even if they don't place high they still get points."

Central Linn established itself as a state contender at the Oregon Classic last month when it won the 2A/1A championship in Redmond. The Cobras' closest match was a 45-23 victory over Culver.

"This is the year we have to make a run at state because we have quite a few seniors and they are ranked pretty high," Day said.

Lowell has three seeded wrestlers, including Brian Toncray, who is second to Branson at 103. Brett McNichols is seeded third at 171 and Bruce Eyles is fifth at 215.

Glide's Eric Harryman and Garrett Manske are seeded second at 119 and 145, respectively. Myrtle Point's James Sykes is the top seed at 135, while Alsea's Curt Chilcote is seeded second at 160.

CAPTION(S):

Justin Branson, a 103-pounder, and heavyweight Cole Logan are Central Linn's pair of No. 1 seeds entering the OSAA Class 2A/1A wrestling tournament.
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Title Annotation:Sports; The Cobras have two top seeds and are expected to contend with Nyssa, Culver and Dayton for the title
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Feb 15, 2005
Words:838
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