The Pendleton Buckaroos have an interesting blend of youth and experience in their six state wrestlers and look poised to at least tie their mark of three first-round wins in 2008 when the state championships begin today.
The tournament will run through Saturday at Memorial Coliseum in Portland.
The Bucks return just two of their five state wrestlers from last season, and just one win in the championship bracket.
That distinction goes to senior Mike Savage, who goes into the brackets as the fifth seed at 135 pounds. Savage has had a one-track mind this season and is set on competing for a state title in his final attempt.
He'll face Hillsboro senior Taylor Klein today and could see Madras' Rodney Smith in his next match with a win.
Pendleton's other senior, 285-pounder Sheehan Barnhart, was rewarded for his conference title with one of the lowest seeds available in possibly the most confusing weight class. He may have to face No. 1 seeded Cleveland senior Shaun Palakiko. It's not set in stone yet because Palakiko still could slip in his pigtail-round match against Glencoe senior Joe Mead.
The other Buck making a return trip to state is 103-pounder Roman Holcomb. Holcomb enters as the No. 2 seed and will face Hillsboro freshman John Vara in the first round. Other notable wrestlers on his side of the bracket include Thurston freshman Cameron Mathews and Eagle Point senior Marlo Barajas.
The Bucks' two freshman drew good matchups as they attempt to get their state careers started with a bang. At 112 pounds, Trevor Hancock will begin in a pigtail round against Churchill sophomore Russell Pascual, with the winner advancing to face Bryce Reisnaur - the No. 3 seed out of Hillsboro.
Hancock and Hermiston's C.J. Dircksen are the only two freshmen in their weight class.
At 145 pounds, Cain Smith drew a fellow first-timer in West Albany freshman Ryker Smith. The Bucks' Smith is no stranger to pressure, though, and could fall back on his rodeo experiences to get him past any Day 1 jitters.
Rounding out the Bucks' state team is 112-pound sophomore Dustin Raines. Raines came on strong at the end of the season for the Bucks and will face Crater's Skyler Prislac, the No. 5 seed.