Portland State’s wrestling program has had its share of glory during head coach Marlin Grahn’s 20-year tenure. The team has earned two NCAA Division II national championships, in 1989 and 1990, has produced 17 individual national champions and NCAA Coach of the Year honors for Grahn in 1989.
Those kinds of achievements, and the pride they bring to the program, have made this season’s struggles all the more poignant for the Vikings. After three straight Pac-10 dual meet losses, the grapplers have another tough assignment this week against 17th ranked Arizona State. Portland State takes on the Sun Devils Friday at 7:00 p.m. in the Stott Center.
The Wyoming Cowboys rode into town last Friday night to take on the PSU wrestling team in non-conference action at the Stott Center. They rode out with a big victory, pinning a 45-0 loss on the struggling Vikings.
Portland State, with a 1-8 dual meet record, went into the match seeking its second win of what has been an extremely difficult season.
Coach Grahn commented, “It’s been an ugly year with injuries. In the last dual meet we had seven starters out of the lineup.”
PSU’s most successful wrestler this year, junior 149-pounder Eddie Dahlen, was questionable going into the match with a sprained knee. However, he rallied to give Wyoming’s Patrick Shuler a tough match before falling 4-3.
Dahlen, with a 13-6 overall record, has a key contest coming up in this week’s action against Patrick Frost of the Sun Devils, who is ranked 11th in the nation.
According to Grahn, the key match-up going into the Wyoming meet was at 125 pounds, with senior Zach Enoch going against Cowboy Bryce Leonhardt, who recently beat the number-one ranked wrestler in the nation at that weight.
Enoch put up a strong fight but eventually fell 8-5 in a close match. He looks to have a competitive pairing in the works against ASU’s Christian Staylor, currently ranked second in the Pac-10. Enoch ranks 8th in the league with a 4-4 dual meet record.
Last Friday’s loss marks the third straight shutout for the Vikings, yet the grapplers have not been deterred by tough circumstances.
“The kids are fighting hard and getting better,” said Grahn, “but it’s an uphill battle for young kids who should probably be substituting rather than starting at this point.”
PSU has also faced brutal competition, both in Pac-10 and non-league matches, consistently going against highly ranked wrestlers at every weight class.
Since the move to NCAA Division I competition in 1996, the Vikings have faced consistently high caliber teams, wrestling what may be the hardest schedule in the nation this season.
“We’ve never had so many tough things happen eligibility and injury-wise,” added Grahn.
PSU will have a busy weekend, hosting ASU Friday night, Southern Oregon Saturday afternoon at 1 p.m. and finally traveling to Forest Grove Sunday evening to take on Pacific.
Come on out to the Stott Center and give the wrestling squad your support. Admission is free with a valid student ID.