REDMOND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- The Redmond wrestling team wants to defend its title as state champions.
They’re off to a good start, but the expectations are different now.
Last year, the Panthers surprised the state, and maybe even themselves with their state title.
This year, they’re the number one-ranked team coming in, and senior Joey Downing said his team can feel the eyes are on them.
“They’re watching us like a hawk,” Downing said. “They’re trying to take us down any way they can, but we’re good. We’ll stick together and get through it.”
Last season, the 5A state champion team had only three seniors on it.
“Last year, it's like, ‘Oh, Redmond High -- were not worried about them.’ And then we win, and then all of a sudden: ‘Oh, maybe they do have a group of studs,’” Downing said.
Head wrestling coach Kris Davis said the youth of last year’s team helped them sneak up on their opponents, which made the state title even more gratifying.
But Davis knows that edge is gone this year.
“This year, we’re kind of in the crosshairs,” Davis said. “We've got a target on our back. So a little different approach in the way we go about things.”
Davis’s message for his team is to be humble, and hustle hard.
“As a whole, we have a really good group of kids who understand the process, and they believe in it because they know it works,” Davis said. “So the goal here is just to stay with that process and don’t get ahead of ourselves.”
The team’s off to a strong start, winning the Oregon City tournament this past weekend.
They have the Oregon Coast Classic this weekend, and Downing is confident his team will continue to hold their own as top dogs.
“We’re good wrestlers, and we’re even better as people, and we're close as a team. So it's going to be hard to beat us, so good luck,” Downing said.
Coach Davis said this weekend, he'll have some new wrestlers in the mix. He wants to see them improving.
"If you lose a match, come back the next one and score points, maybe find a way to finish third and help the team," he said.