Matt Hoover continues to try new things and shake things up to attract more interest in his evolving Auburn wrestling program.
Just this week, the Trojans’ second-year head coach received permission to roll out the mat for a Jan. 9 dual meet at the remodeled Auburn Performing Arts Center. It marks the first time an athletic event has occupied the building and a storied stage that’s usually reserved for concerts, theater productions and the Miss Auburn & Miss Auburn’s Outstanding Teen Scholarship Program.
For Hoover, the match against Todd Beamer will mark Senior and Alumni Night. Bouts begin at 7 p.m. for the clash between North Puget Sound League Olympic Division schools.
“It will be a great chance for Auburn residents to come out and see the facility as well as our team,” Hoover said. “We hope to pack the PAC.”
Under Hoover, the Trojans are on the rise. Having won five of eight division duals a season ago, Auburn has split its first meets this season with a promising lineup.
“We are still a relatively young team,” Hoover said. “Keeping guys healthy will be key to our success as a team this year. We need to have the young guys step in and perform at a high level right away.”
A group of juniors will lead the way.
Gabe Sena, a 132-pounder who qualified for state last season, and 113-pound Dalton Whitehall-Gilkes, a state alternate, are back. Aron Fassee (120 pounds), Alex Contreras (126) and Uriel Parra (220) also return.
Mason Rowland (160) and Sidney Sanchezllanes (220) are solid sophomores.
Hoover likes what he sees in his newcomers.
“We have some tough freshmen who will be wrestling varsity right away – Eddie Carter at 152 and Jhay Trinidad at 195,” he said. “At 145, Aric Hayes has already made the finals of a tournament this year. Ronnie Mairs has rejoined the team and will be very solid at 170 this year.”
Hoover expects a scramble for the division’s top spot this winter.
“I think the league title is really up for grabs this year. With the new dual schedule format, it’s quite possible the league dual title will be decided during the Auburn Riverside Quad Dual (on Jan. 16).
“I’d like to think that we will be right there in the hunt to be league champs this year.”
Auburn hosts the Doc Herren Invitational on Dec. 28-29.
Auburn Mountainview brings back several top wrestlers, led by Russell Hanson, a three-time state participant who finished fourth at 138 pounds last season, and Mahlik Walker, a two-time state performer and the 126-pound regional champion last season. The Lions also feature lightweight Kamana Nahaku, who was a state alternate as a freshman last season.
Top newcomers for the Lions are two state-class transfers – Jake Aplin and Abdullah Fnu.
The Lions are off to a 2-0 dual start under coach Jay McGuffin.
Auburn Riverside looks to three-peat as division dual and league/sub-regional meet champions behind Yusef Nelson, one of the state’s best 129-pounders, and 220-pound Will Russell, who finished eighth at state last year.
State participant Peyton Scheschy at 160 pounds, state alternate Eyvar Robles at 285 pounds, and lightweight Jaden Cassel also return for coach Kyle Jones.