Unrivaled Tigers: La Grande wrestling pursues fourth straight state title

By on Thursday, February 22nd, 2024 in More Top Stories Northeastern Oregon News

LA GRANDE — La Grande High boys wrestling looks to continue its dominance this week as the team seeks its fourth straight state title.

The Tigers are sending 12 athletes to the OSAA Class 4A state wrestling tournament, being held at Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Portland beginning Thursday, February 22.

The La Grande girls wrestling squad will be sending 13 athletes to state.

“I think the guys are in a good place mentally and physically, we’re ready to wrestle,” said Head Coach Klel Carson. “I’m excited to go down, let it go and see how it goes.”

La Grande qualified after a strong showing at the Special District 4, finishing second overall and claiming six individual district champions.

Carson, who was recently named National Coach of the Year, says this year’s squad is a good mix of younger wrestlers who’ve never experienced a state tournament before, as well as older leaders that have been on the big stage.

“We’re blessed to have a culture where freshmen and sophomores can look across the room and see coaches that were former state champions and see wrestlers that are going to the state tournament that have been there before and placed in the state tournament,” said Carson. “So it’s nice trying to mentally prepare these kids for state and have those leaders with experience help them.”

One Tiger who’s on a hunt for glory is the coach’s son, Kai. Wrestling in the 132 pound class, he’s looking to match his older brother Braden (now wrestling at EOU) as a three-time individual state champion. 

“I’m just super proud of him and the hard work. He dealt with adversity,this year, coming back from an injury and he kind of had a slower start, but it all came back together for him,” said Coach Carson about his son. “I feel fortunate that Kai has been able to come back from that injury and get himself back to the place where he’s really competing at a high level again. I’m really excited for him.”

With La Grande looking to continue its winning ways, Carson believes that the community has provided the perfect culture for him and his teams.

“I’m super fortunate to be involved with such a dedicated wrestling community. From youth league, to middle school to high school, it’s just a whole culture and whole community of people who support these kids in numerous ways,” said Carson. “It’s just a pretty amazing culture of people that really are in it to help kids. I don’t think anyone is doing it for any other reason except to make these kids better people or help them to find ways to become better people.”