DALLAS – You won’t find a more passionate, and knowledgeable, crowd at a wrestling match than you do at Dallas High School.
There aren’t many high schools where you can go and have fans shout about when someone needs to apply a single leg.
The sport has become an identity at Dallas, and the community has rallied behind it.
Go to a road dual meet and you’ll find more people clad in Dallas orange than for the home team.
“Just the parents have been supporting us since we’ve been little,” said freshman Nolan Miller, a No. 1 seed for the state tournament. “They constantly take us to everything, and I think that’s what’s helped us get so successful.”
At a district meet where the crowd is purposefully broken up into equal portions for each school, half of the grandstands are occupied by Dallas fans.
It’s the kind of support few wrestling teams receive.
“I can disagree with a referee at a home dual and just show exasperation on my face, and I get everything I need from the crowd,” 12th-year Dallas coach Tony Olliff said.
“They’re saying all the right things. All I have to do is have a less-than-pleased look on my face and they know right what to say.”
Dallas will send 17 wrestlers to this weekend’s OSAA Class 5A state wrestling tournament at Portland’s Memorial Coliseum – the most among 5A teams.
The 5A classification is impossible to predict in the team race.
Between defending champion Hermiston, a Hillsboro team that dropped down from 6A and schools like Crater, Sandy, Redmond and Churchill, there is no definitive favorite.
“Who has the edge, who knows?” Olliff said. “And then we’ve got to be in the conversion, too. We’re bringing 17 and we’ve taken second the last several years and first a couple years ago.”
The expectations for Dallas’ wrestling team have skyrocketed in the past few years.
Between winning six consecutive district championships and placing in the top two at the state meet – including winning the state championship in 2012 – the past four years, solidified wrestling as the top sport at Dallas.
“We’ve been up there so obviously things are going to change,” said senior Matt Hofenbredl, a two-time state champion. “Just making it to playoffs for football is a big thing and not placing in state as a team would be a big thing for us.”
Olliff has been the catalyst for Dallas’ wrestling program to emerge as a state power.
When he came to the school in 2004, it was a small school in the then 4A classification Pac-9 Conference and underachieved in many sports.
“It was tough, guys, people walking around the halls wearing shirts from other schools. West Salem flight was bad. But then we started getting some stuff together,” Olliff said. “It started with a kid named Brett Elston, he won a state title for us. Others followed suit and we kind of started rolling.
“We lost two wrestlers along the way. About seven years ago we lost a kid named Justice Fockler, they kind of jelled around him, and then Charley Engelfried. Those kind of things catalyze us.”
It’s a common sight at Dallas to see a bunch of wrestlers sitting in the hall after school, waiting for the door to their practice room to be unlocked so they can go inside.
“And the team bonding, our team bonds really well and like everyone gets along,” Hofenbredl said. “Compared to other schools they branch off and they don’t bond as well. We just have a good bond, a good connection with everyone.”
bpoehler@StatesmanJournal.com, (503) 399-6701 or follow at twitter.com/bpoehler
State wrestling tournament
Where: Memorial Coliseum, Portland.
Friday: 8:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.
Saturday: Begins at 8:30 a.m. Semifinal matches at 9:45 a.m. Championship matches at 6:30 p.m.