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Auburn-area wrestlers take Pac-12 titles; NCAAs next
Three Auburn-area wrestlers are preparing for the NCAA Tournament on March 21-23 in Des Moines, Iowa.
Oregon State's Michael Mangrum and Taylor Meeks and Boise State's Jake Swartz – lifelong friends who trained at Auburn's Vision Quest Sport and Fitness – head into the nationals ranked in their respective weight classes.
Mangrum, a senior captain for the Beavers and a three-time state champion at Auburn Riverside who won his final 100 matches in high school, took his second straight Pac-12 crown at 141 pounds at the recent conference championships in Tempe, Ariz.
Ninth-ranked Oregon State won its second straight Pac-12 title and third in four years.
Mangrum used a pair of takedowns, locking a cradle on the second, to pin CSU Bakersfield's Timmy Box at 3:33 in his championship bout.
"It's always great to come out with a win. Getting the back-to-back (titles) is nice as well, and that means I'm the first 141-pounder ever to have the Pac-12 (team) title and to have back-to-back Pac-12 (individual) titles," Mangrum told osubeavers.com. "It's a really good feeling."
Mangrum is one win away from tying the school's legendary Les Gutches with 134 career victories.
Swartz, a junior and a state champion at Auburn, claimed his second consecutive 184-pound title for the Broncos. Swartz downed Arizona State's Kevin Radford, 3-1, in the finals.
"He plays the chess game well (on the mat). He doesn't get overly excited," said Swartz's father, Brad, a champion wrestler at Oregon State. "He also trains harder than anyone in the offseason."
Meeks, a sophomore from Orting, won the 197-pound class for the Beavers. Meeks is ranked fifth in the latest NCAA RPI standings. Meeks won three state titles at Orting.
All three are ranked heading into the NCAAs. Mangrum, ranked fourth in the NCAA RPI standings for his weight class, was fifth at nationals last year, Swartz, nagged by a hamstring injury, went 3-2 last March. Swartz is ranked sixth in the latest NCAA RPI standings.
Mangrum is confident he can bring home an NCAA crown.
"I believe that I can. I just have to go out and do what (coach) Jim (Zalesky) tells me to do and wrestle as hard as I can for seven minutes or more, and just go for it," Mangrum told osubeavers.com. "Last year and the years before I was tentative coming out to wrestle, and I think the difference this year is going to be the fact that I'm going to go out there and attack from the whistle until times runs out."
Magnum and Swartz have fathers who were Pac-10 champions.
Brad Swartz was a Division I All-American at Oregon State, a five-time Veterans Wrestling World champion at 167 pounds and the founder of Puget Sound locally-owned Vision Quest Sport and Fitness.
Carl Mangrum was a Pac-10 champion at Washington.